One of the most valuable things London has taught me is self-sufficiency. Back in North America I used to walk around with the attitude that if something bad happened to me, others would step in to offer assistance, and if they didn't I could at least count on first responders. I am fortunate to have several friends involved in martial arts, the military or police work and I had no shortage of 'lessons' on how to defend myself, tend to an injury, or take-out a potential attacker. A very over-protective friend once put me through a somewhat ridiculous self-preservation exercise (but hey now I can swim with my hands tied behand my back, and can make a weapon out of almost anything haha). I rarely, if ever, put these 'lessons' into practice until I moved to the UK.
Living here has taught me that not only can I not count on other people, but I cannot count on emergency service providers. When they are not crippled by political correctness and elf and safety, they are overwhelmed with work, understaffed, and/or incompetent. Many try to do their best, but in a system that is largely broken this has little impact. My experiences with the Met have not been entirely negative, but overall I feel that I cannot depend on first responders in a critical situation - especially when they show up unarmed. When my husband was seriously injured I did not call 999, I ran to my neighbour's house who thankfully was kind enough to rush us to the nearest hospital. Otherwise I probably would have called a cab. I could insert several dozen anecdotes here, but I think this story pretty much sums it up:
More than three years after Caren Paterson, a talented King’s College university student, collapsed and later suffered a cardiac arrest in her flat in Hargrave Road, the London Ambulance Service (LAS) have finally admitted liability.
They refused to go to 33-year-old Caren’s home until they had police back-up because the block of flats she lived in had been designated as a “high-risk address”.
While no police cars were available on that day in October 2007, there was an ambulance sitting just 100 yards away from her home. It took 102 minutes for one to arrive and take her to the Whittington Hospital. But by then her brain had been starved of oxygen.
She now lives in a brain injury clinic in Leeds and needs round-the-clock care.