The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FEATURE - Anne.gildea@mailon­sun­

how low they’re go­ing to go, as time runs out. A bit Scroogey, I know. But I’m sav­ing for a big gift to my­self, more of which later.

I like the idea of giv­ing what peo­ple need. But need is rel­a­tive. Most ba­si­cally, it’s wa­ter. Would Mammy be happy with 12 litres of Bal­ly­gowan un­der the tree, from me? No, but there’s many a parched vil­lager else­where would. That’s another thing that al­ways gnaws away: par­al­lel to all the in­dulge-and-en­joy mes­sages we’re ham­mered with, there’s the aware­ness of the pri­va­tions felt by those stuck in the worst bits of this global vil­lage. Into ered af­ter a Google search, earns €145,000 a year, plus health insurance, pen­sion ben­e­fits, and a com­pany car. His re­mu­ner­a­tion has ‘re­mained static since 2008’, the web­site (re­as­sur­ingly?) notes.

Is that not rather a lot? A lot more than the lit­tle old ladies emp­ty­ing the change from their purses into the buck­ets ever had a sniff of, that’s for sure. Or is that a sort of av­er­agely okay wage, from the per­spec­tive of those of his man­age­rial ilk, those of the top tier of this di­vided so­ci­ety — even if that wage comes from the ef­fort of vol­un­teers, and the pock­ets of those pos­i­tively poor by com­par­i­son? What­ever, it makes me feel queasy. And it taints the whole sec­tor: if I buy the cow for the fam­ily in Africa for my mother, will, real­is­ti­cally, my do­na­tions be only the equiv­a­lent of an ud­der? Feck it, she’s get­ting the hot wa­ter bot­tle shaped like a meerkat and a gal­lon of smelly lo­tion in­stead.

Fi­nally, that spe­cial gift to my­self: I’ve to get my right breast sur­gi­cally ad­justed to match the re­con­structed one and I’m go­ing pri­vate, in Jan­uary. My ba­sic health insurance doesn’t cover the hos­pi­tal stay, but I dis­cov­ered I can take that op­tion if I pay a sup­ple­ment of about €400 a night, which, as health­care costs go, is a bar­gain. Ide­o­log­i­cally, I don’t be­lieve in this two-tier sys­tem; it feels like an in­sti­tu­tional en­shrin­ing of so­ci­etal di­vi­sion. BUT prac­ti­cally, it means, un­like in the ‘pub­lic’ sys­tem, I quickly got a con­firmed date, and it won’t be can­celled due to lack of bed avail­abil­ity. I’ve never done the ‘pri­vate’ hos­pi­tal thing be­fore — what does it mean? Vel­vet sedan chairs in­stead of gur­neys, haute cui­sine in­stead of sad rash­ers and a rub­ber omelette, Gucci can­nu­las and Tommy Hil­figer bed­pans? A night in a pri­vate hos­pi­tal! An op­por­tu­nity to see how the other half lives (and dies): that’s how I’m view­ing it. Oh, Michael, I’m not go­ing mad, am I?

Agus Nol­laig shona!

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