THE General Election is thankfully a thing of the past, but the relentless spotlight on our wonderful National Health Service is still giving me food for thought.

As I may have mentioned I lost yet another hearing aid in a wheelbarrow full of steamy ordure some months ago, and after blundering along in a fuzzy world of lip-reading and guesswork for far too long, I finally bit the bullet and decided to purchase a replacement.

Mrs Hextol’s throat was sore through bellowing at me, and I was unable to follow much of what was on television without asking her multiple questions, much to her exasperation.

The lady on the phone was delightful, and clucked sympathetically at my aural difficulties being caused by an over friendly horse, but she was unable to waive the £50 fee charged to those of us careless enough to lose our ears on the world.

Having provided my bank details I asked how long it might take before my hearing would be restored to its former glories, and was told that if I wanted it supplied from Hexham, I would have to wait somewhere in the region of six weeks.

However, I could have it the next day if I was prepared to make the 70-mile round trip to the Freeman Hospital; in Newcastle.

“Can’t you just put it in the post?” I bleated.

“It’s not very long since I lost the last one, so I don’t think my hearing will have changed enough to warrant any major recalibration.”

However, she insisted that the new device would have to be plugged into my lug personally by a skilled technician, so I reluctantly agreed to make the trip to the Toon.

Parking at the Freeman is seldom easy and usually expensive, but I managed to park up without too many problems, and then spent almost as long as it had taken me to get to the hospital trying to locate the appropriate department.

Once there, I had an animated conversation with the receptionist, who disappeared, and came back to report she could not find my hearing aid.

I told her I was not surprised to hear that as it was residing somewhere deep in a muck heap in Upper Redesdale, and she finally twigged I had come to be fitted with a new one.

“Just take a number from the machine on the wall and wait your turn,” she declared, and I was resigned to the fact the number displayed on the wall was a long long way behind the one on my ticket.

Some of the other people in the waiting area gave the impression they had been there since Tynedale’s most renowned grave occupant William Beveridge – he is buried at Thockrington Church, Little Bavington – first announced his plans for a National Health Service back in 1942.

However, I had only read four elderly magazines of unimaginable mediocrity when proceedings were enlivened by a lady being so startled having her name called out that she dropped her purse, scattering coins the length and breadth of the waiting room.

“It’s like a hoy-oot at a wedding,” cried one patient, as he joined in the scramble on the floor for the missing money, all of which was returned to the bewildered purse dropper.

Eventually, my number came up, and I was ushered in to see the audiologist.

I had double cleaned my ears ready for the searching examination, and was awaiting the headphones being applied when she handed me my new hearing aid, with a few boxes of new batteries for luck.

“Are you not going to test my hearing?” I inquired, and was told there was no need as it was not long since I had lost the previous device, and the same prescription would suffice...

I was in and out in about three minutes, which is probably less time than it would have taken to pop the hearing aid into a Jiffy bag and have it posted to Hextol Towers.

At least I could hear the car radio a bit more clearly on the way home.

Some months earlier, I was suffering from worrying symptoms which I was concerned might be linked to the stroke I had suffered 18 months earlier and was told I was being referred to hospital for test.

More than three months had elapsed before I received a telephone call inviting me to ring back and make an appointment!

The symptoms had disappeared so I politely declined the kind offer.