Did you bin 2009 with relish or look back at a particularly happy year?
At the party where we all grouped according to our view of it, my sister-in-law and I immediately 'binned' the year as both of us had discovered we had medical conditions requiring rather urgent treatment. Afterwards, I felt guilty. Indeed, I thought in reality I should view it as a lucky year because when I needed them those amazing doctors were there, telling me to stay calm and just let them get on with sorting me out. Which they did.
This isn't just a way of thanking them - although I do very much want to thank them - but also to remind me and others of things we overlook in the UK. The unusual condition I had was only 'discovered' some 30 years ago - by experts in this country, who also developed and then improved the treatment. The hospital where most of this work was done still provides expert diagnostics and advice for consultants treating patients with it. Was I humbled? Yes. And, yes, it did also dawn on me that in many (most?) parts of the world this wouldn't have happened.
We are a very argumentative nation. One of the key points put to me years ago by a favourite history teacher is that we are constantly complaining - our politicians rarely get lionised, in fact we rarely have a good word to say fro them until they retire, or die. Her point was that this is actually a great strength - we don't often do uncritical acclaim and this helps maintain a free society. But we do also take it too far - there's a time to recognise that sometimes the services we recieve, the thought and managerial skill behind them, as well as our trained front-line staff, can be amazing. So just as the battlelines are drawn up for a very important election, and we prepare for a positive fest of complaining and whingeing about everything, I just want to put on the record - apolitically of course, this is a totally apolitical statement - that last year I was deeply grateful to all those people whose names I will never know but who together took decisions on research and treatment which meant that years later, when I popped up on the radar, a lot of other people knew just what to do. Underneath it all most of us do - at least occasionally! - realise what a fine country this is.