What could a canoe trip down the zambezi river and the high tech hub possibly have in common? Fintan Moore explains

Years ago when I was in my 20s, I went on a holiday to Zimbabwe with my girlfriend. Back then, Zimbabwe was a safe and pleasant place to visit, and it had a busy adventure tourism sector. We booked onto a three-day canoe safari down the Zambezi. The two of us were in one ‘Canadian’ style canoe, and a second canoe contained our guide and a German tourist. Both canoes were laden with the gear and provisions we needed for camping on the riverside each night. The guide was a serious enough young man, which was no bad thing on a crocodile- and hippo-infested river.

The section of river to be travelled was wide and slow-flowing, except for one small set of rapids near the start of the trip. The guide was too busy watching us negotiate them to pay attention to his own steering, and he ran his own canoe up onto a flat rock, where it perched briefly before capsizing and turning turtle. It started floating downstream upside-down, with the guide and the German sitting on top of the hull. The net holding the gear gave way, so various items sank or started bobbing along on the current.

I had done some kayaking but not much paddling in a Canadian canoe, but we paddled after the floating items and rescued what we could. We got to within five feet of the beer cooler before, sadly, its lid opened and we had to watch it fill and sink. The guide had been gamely trying to paddle his upturned boat towards the bank with no success, so we had to give up chasing flotsam and save the other people before any crocodiles took an interest in the dangling feet. He hung onto the back of our canoe as a kind of human tow-rope and we dragged them to shore. It was an unfortunate start to the three days, but we had survived with enough food and camping gear to continue. A couple of bottles of wine eased the pain of losing the beer.

It is deeply frustrating to all the pharmacists who spent time and effort preparing and returning the Expression of Interest forms

So what’s the relevance of my travel anecdote to pharmacy? It transpired in a chat with the guide that all of the rescue training he did as part of his qualification was done on a lake instead of with a current; and was also based on the assumption that the guide would still be in his canoe rescuing other people, instead of the other way around. The same kind of thinking must have been at work when the High Tech Hub contingency plan was designed, given that its authors assumed that the HSE’s main IT systems would be operational, even though one of the most likely reasons for the Hub to go down is a catastrophic collapse of the HSE system, as we just had with the ransomware attack. At least we all stayed dry.

Needle Shaft

At time of writing, it looks less and less likely that any community pharmacies will be involved in the initial Covid vaccination programme. This might change in the future if there is a booster campaign, but it’s hard to know. It is deeply frustrating to all the pharmacists who spent time and effort preparing and returning the Expression of Interest forms, as well as making plans for their assumed role in the programme.

It’s almost funny to consider the section in the Expression of Interest form querying how the normal running of the pharmacy would continue without being adversely affected by the vaccination programme, given the clear negative impact it has had on some GP practices. In fairness to the GPs, their operation of the vaccine clinics has often been upset by severe shortfalls in the delivery of vaccines from the HSE. These shortfalls created a situation where dozens of patients, or often more than that, needed to be cancelled at short notice and rebooked. I certainly don’t envy them that.

Assault and Battery

The last year has seen a surge in the number of people cycling, which is in general a good thing. It has also seen a massive increase in the number of battery-operated bikes and scooters on our roads. Once again, this is mostly positive, because it allows people who may not be fit enough to cycle a regular bike to travel quickly and conveniently.

There is, however, a definite downside to the battery boom in urban and suburban Dublin, which is that a lot of teenage maggots have got their hands on e-bikes and e-scooters, which they use to roam around in gangs like bargain-basement Hell’s Angels. The lack of physical effort they need to travel means that they can wear their Canada Goose jackets without overheating, then hang around indefinitely, protected from the cold when they get to whatever unfortunate location has to endure them for hours as they harass and intimidate innocent people.

Anti-social yobs have always been with us and there has never been the political will to address the problem, but the new-found speed and mobility these guys have will see this summer being a whole new level of trouble. Hope I’ll be proved wrong, but I doubt it.

<strong>Fintan Moore</strong>
Fintan Moore

Fintan Moore graduated as a pharmacist in 1990 from TCD and currently runs a pharmacy in Clondalkin.