They crowded together, some of them so weak they had to prop themselves up against the wall.
Others lay on the floor, gazing up, up towards the voice, up higher than that, perhaps escaping into the far off spaces of their own minds. It was a new era of compulsory democracy and as they waited in front of the screen, the smell of spit and stale cider and stubble mixed with the all pervasive stench of boiled cabbage.
The programme started with an exultant fanfare. It was National Statistics Day. A day of celebration. Each year they were forced to bare witness to the success, prosperity and triumph of the government.
A voice read out a list of figures. The Government announced that the average life expectancy had increased. Medicines were cheaper and more available than five years ago, there were many more doctors in training and waiting lists at the hospitals had dropped for the fifteenth consecutive year. Never before had a government shown such care for its people, just as a diligent father would nurture a sick child.
The reforms were working and the people were happy. The happiness scales proved it. “Long live happiness, happiness is all we need,” echoed the voice.
The programme ended. Without a murmur, without gratitude or impulse, the huddle, with its wet hair, overcoats and winter coughs, was led away.
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen