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Death Features in Tyne & Wear

England’s fifth smallest county gave me little to write about - with just four little places of disgust to remark on, the world should have been a bed of slimy oysters. Instead, the opposite was true - I could find nothing to fire my imagination whatsoever in Tyne & Wear despite it being home to Spital Tongues.

Then I read that women have a reduced tongue strength reserve than men. Who knew? In fact, who needed to know? Nonetheless, that our muscles are weaker than men’s is hardly headline news. Until, of course, one has difficulty swallowing so I suppose it matters then. Hence, when it comes to poking one’s tongue out, men can be presumed to do it much more forcefully.

Incidentally, more women than men have V-shaped tongues, but most people’s tongues are u-shaped. All tongues continue to expand marginally throughout our lives, even though they will weaken as we age, women’s tongues remarkably so. Men’s tongues are longer, by about half a centimetre on average, but women have many more condensed taste-buds. All the better to taste rancid milk with, I suppose. A third of women can be classed as supertasters compared to just 15% of men. This has me wondering whether I was indeed a ‘fussy child’ as I was always told but rather one who just experienced food much more evocatively than my older male sibling.

Suddenly, I’m all fascinated by tongue.

I then discovered that Tyne in obsolete English means to become lost or to perish.

Welcome to death.

Death is oft said to be mankind’s number one fear. It turns out that’s only true if one is young and full of the joys of spring. As one ages, that particular fear diminishes. Undoubtedly, taxes will do that to a person. In fact, once one knows one’s life is in terminal decline, one becomes much more upbeat and positive about matters than when living under uncertainty or youth!

That led to me pondering what was the number one killer for men and for women. It used to be heart disease for both sexes but then women started living longer so these days it's dementia that does for us. However, if very old age does not beckon, the leading cause of death amongst women aged 50 - 79 is cancer of the trachea, bronchia or breast. For men: still heart disease. Alas, despite having a greater life expectancy, women spend more time suffering ill-health or experiencing disability when compared with men.

Perhaps one will be interested to learn that the gaps in the prevalence of disease, outcomes or access to health care varies from area to area. Globally, men are more likely to face great health risks, so finally at least, us women are getting the benefit of access to a health system that in the UK, like in thirty-two other countries, is pre-paid for.

Until one learns that the UK bucks the trend. The UK has the largest female health gap in the G20, and the twelfth-largest globally according to the statistics generated by our own government. In short, women with dementia receive worse treatment than men with the condition. Women make fewer (who knew?) visits to the doctor, receive less health monitoring, and take medication that is not adequately tested on women because men make better guinea pigs. And women are still finding it “slightly awks” talking about menstrual and urinary matters with their health practitioners. As for matters maternal, twice as many black women die giving birth by comparison to Asian women, who themselves are twice as likely to die compared to white women. Reasons explaining this disparity have yet to be adduced.

Now regarding life and not-death: non-essential surgery. The top five cosmetic surgeries are, in order, breast augmentations, breast reductions, tummy tucks, eye-lifts and finally, the good old fashioned nose job. Of the recipients of such invasions: 92% are women.

It’s a wonder how we’re outliving the men at all.

Located on the outskirts of Newcastle, I discovered the Tongues in Spital Tongues refers to two tranches of land given by Edward I to St. Mary Magdalene Hospital For The Incurables. Approximately five hundred years ago, it became St. Lukes Private Lunatic Asylum. Later on, it became a hospital, and with the Tynesider’s propensity for a glottal stop, they excised the Ho, leaving just the Spital.

If one is oblivious to what the revoltingly-sounding glottal stop is, keep the mouth wide open, but use the throat to block the airflow. The sudden restriction of breath through the vocal cords giving a perceptible pause after the sounds ‘p’, ‘t’ or ‘k’ is what makes the Geordie and Mackem accents so uniquely wonderful and yet so impenetrable for the hard of accenting. Take the word “Spital”, someone from Tyneside is most likely to say “spi….tul”.

Spitting, of course, is largely a male past-time, and one which is universally condemned by women as gross. Unfortunately for the gob globullers, there is no biological evidence to support the assertion that men produce more saliva, nor can this be attributed to their tongues being marginally longer and substantially stronger. Men who spit are, to borrow a phrase, nothing but drooling delinquents who don’t get chastised out of the practice like girls do.

Anyway, back to Spital Tongues. About one hundred and twenty-five years ago, the hospital became a soldiers’ home, following which it became a clothing factory.

And finally, that where I’ll leave the delectable Tyne and Wear.

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