How tired are you? On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is “I’m not tired at all - in fact I could jog to work, do a double shift, get home, feed the kids, polish the dog then jog out to my second job at Pete’s All-Night Car Wash and Curtain Repair Shop where I am in charge of ironing the drapes and colour coding the sponges.” And 1 involves a little bit of dribble slipping down your chin as you choose not to answer stupid questions in a magazine.
Everyone I have spoken to lately seem to be reporting the dribble thing. Bone weary, overworked, a bit stressed. They report that their normal irritability sensors are off. That the things that should annoy them - Nigel Farage, air pollution, blisters: feel normal - are not. While things that are usually benign or even sweet - kittens, Kylie Minogue, whoever they are married to - are really winding them up.
I know of 43-year-olds fantasising about retirement in around two decades’ time because they think it will be the next time they get to sit down. I know of a 48-year-old senior nurse thinking of retraining as a primary school teacher (or possibly a marine?) because he thinks he will find it a bit more easy going.
What am I saying? I’m saying people are tired.
Not that such things should be dwelt upon of course. Nursing absorbs difficulty, it is part of the professional responsibility of the nurse. And, while we have a history of being able to complain for Britain among ourselves, nursing is about soldiering on, getting the job done and making the best of things.
But people are tired and I want to notice it for two reasons. First, because when tired people do things, the quality of their actions are affected. No matter how well meaning, we cannot nurse as well or teach as well or study as well.
Second, this is a politically constructed tiredness. When a government begins to assault and erode public service, it is public servants who will see the impact and try to temper it with their own humanity. They may make a difference for a while but it is like putting fingers into dams - no matter how hard you try, you and everyone around you is going to get soaked.
Then pay cuts compound the assault. These tell you not only that what you do has reduced value but also that you - the trained professional who enables society to function by looking after the wellbeing of others - have reduced value too. Get a job in the private sector if you want better pay - go somewhere where the profit stream is more obvious.
When an ideologically driven government like the current one gets into power, it takes two or three years before what it does reaches into the very bones of people. It may get to the wallet quite quickly but it takes a little longer to become embodied. It has done that now, or at least it has in the people I know and see.
There is a relentlessness to the working lives of public servants now. Not just in the day-to-day pressures of meeting need and providing services but also on the organisational pressures of having to manage ill-considered policy and perpetual, pointless change.
There are those who think such an assault is intentional. A body of politics designed to break a mentality or a provision. I think that credits politicians with more foresight than they have. I suspect it is rather that they treat with contempt the things and people that they simply do not care about.
Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer, and author of Stranger than Kindness. Follow him on twitter @markacradcliffe