Archive for January, 2008

It’s hard to find a friend

I realize now that the blogs I wrote in NZ in pubs and cafes were really just ways to pass the time and look less lonely when there’s no one else there. Not that I mind being on my own, more that I mind people thinking ‘look at the sad old bugger on his own in the corner’.

I have a mate living in england who occasionally frequents Thom Yorke’s pub and on a random Thursday evening you might find I’m in there ensconced in a corner with a pint and an old paperback. Maybe he doesn’t suffer the same neuroses I do.

So I write this in a snug in a pub in town waiting for two mates to turn up. I have this terrible habit of actually being on time for things, which means i always seem to end up sitting about by myself waiting for other people writing blogs to pass the time.

When I arrive it’s kind of  a slow night, there’s just a few hardened drinkers arranged by the bar who give me a slightly cursory glance and return to Crystal Palace versus Leicester on the telly.

I retire to a snug and begin to fend off my boredom by looking up obscure medical conditions on the program on my phone – this has been a lifesaver to stave off boredom in various isolated situations.

I get bored with Waldenstrom’s macrglobulinaemia (which the first prime minister of Algeria died of incidentally… Don’t ask…) and start to write the blog. Leicester score. A woman walks briefly through and leaves even more quickly. It’s that type of pub. At one point  a non white person arrives and chats comfortably with a few of the locals. I pinch myself to check I’m still in Portadown. Maybe I paint this place worse than it is.

15 minutes later Des sits down beside me having been sitting in the snug beside me for the past 10 minutes but completely oblivious to my presence. He only found me when the bar man suggested that ‘was he meeting anyone’ and that he was probably in the snug beside him.

Shane arrives another 15 minutes later with some lame excuse about baby sitting his 6 year old nephew, or getting beat up by his 6 year old nephew. I’m not sure which.

We all worked (though I use that term in the loosest possible sense) in the hospital as cleaners when we were students. Spending our weekends cleaning toilets and handing out breakfasts to the patients (often in that order).

I loved it, but then I get excited about nearly everything so maybe I’m not the one to ask.

We managed about 4 years in total. It was better than real work – which by my definition involves some kind of manual labour, probably outdoors on rainy days only. So by that definition I’ve never had a real job. And also that the only people doing real work are the roads service – which is clearly nonsense. Though I suppose it does count with Shane who was briefly (though to be fair bout 4 years…) an archaeologist before taking up a job renting property (or selling guns or something…) in Bosnia. Some people eh?

Des makes TV programmes. Which is well cool. Though I’ve never actually seen any of them. Funny where we all end up.

pub-man.jpgThe bant was good, I didn’t even see who won the match. Shane goes back to Bosnia soon so we say our goodbyes till July when Shane gets back and we do this again. Except next time I’ll just remember to bring a paper instead of blogging to fill the time.

OK computer

And so I have a rather sordid confession to make. I’ve bought a new Mac. Not the type of mac to keep rain off or develop a career as a flasher. I mean this type of mac.

Now I know Vox will be getting all exciting and I have numerous friends (and indeed relatives…) on standby to come round and ogle when it arrives. I’m not sure what this says about either my friends or about me.

Technology in all its glory occasionally disturbs me by its promises to provide an answer to all life’s problems. Maybe I’m just a sucker for its advertising. I am (sadly it might be said) one of those folks who loves his calendar on his phone to synchronize with his computer (especially as it’s windows mobile to mac). I even have one of those phones where you can tap on the screen.

Dammit – I was happy before Apple came and showed me how much better my life could be!

I have lots of nice positive healthy things to say about technology. Just not right now.


You see I bought it almost 6 days ago and I have at least another 3 to wait. Human beings weren’t designed for such stress. Even more tantalizingly I can track the progress of my order online. (note the guy who doesn’t know how to do a screen dump…). I can sit and watch it leave Shanghai and arrive in Arnhem (where the flip is Arnhem – just checked, apparently in the netherlands, no idea why it goes there…)

Somehow this makes it more painful. Though it does mean I can leave the house tomorrow safe in the knowledge that TNT won’t turn up on my doorstep when I’m not there and leave a helpful note telling me to drive to Crumlin (Crumlin!) to pick up my package. Sigh.

I may have to sell a kidney to fund a mac but I figure I’ll keep (what’s left of) my soul and leave off from getting an iPhone.

PS to be fair, no kidney selling will be needed. I got a job today. Also sigh.

Anybody wanna take me home?

One of the things I planned on doing when I got back from NZ (besides world domination…) was to move into a house in town with a mate. No intention of buying a house – preferring instead that I should hold on to both my kidneys instead of selling one to pay the mortgage.

I enjoyed my year in NZ living by myself in my own space. And I figure, well I’m in Portadown for the forseeable future so why not find somewhere here to live.

Not that I don’t enjoy living with my parents (the rent’s obviously good…), I get on with them very well, I’ve never felt smothered, or impeded or in any way deficient by living with them – though I’m aware that living with your parents at the age of 26 is deemed a cultural faux-pas in some circles.

For some years now I’ve had a certain desire, or perhaps I should say conviction to be living on the Garavghy Rd. Just because there were no other Christians living there, and seeing as I seem in no danger of “going out into all the nations” anytime soon, then maybe down the road a bit might do.

Going to NZ was a lot of things, part of it was running away from that.

I have been a quiet suburban middle-class Prod all my life. The idea of living in any form of urban (not that Portadown ever gets that urban) working class community has some sort of romantic allure – think Pulp’s Common People without the “sleeping with common people like you” bit.

There is a longer explanation but that’s pretentious enough for now.

And so for the past 3 months I’ve read the classified section of the local quality publication – The Portadown Times (the same paper that brought us such page 2 stories as “Missing swan found”) – looking for houses to rent. Largely without success.

Until last week when two turned up at once.

woodsy.jpgMe and Woodster (seen here during his brief spell with the Met) – the only one I could talk into sharing a house with me – spent our evening viewing the two houses.

The first was a newly renovated terrace which fell down on being pricey, having dodgy windows and a peculiar bathroom beside the kitchen thing. Nice but not good enough we thought.

The second was a wee bit more hopeful. An end terrace in a courtyard of relatively recent built houses. Recently occupied by smoking Portugese Moy Park workers (judging by the unopened mail and the smell). Certainly a decent enough wee house Just the landlord who was a bit stand offish. Asking questions like how long we’d known each other and who the girl (a friend who’d tagged along for curisoity’s sake) was, and what we did for a living. He quite clearly didn’t believe I was a doctor, and I hardly blame him, most people don’t. I either look, too young, or too scruffy, or too incompetent, or frequently all three.

As we walked away from the house it dawned on us that his stand-offishness and quite frankly nosy questions were simply explained by the fact he thought we were gay. Northern Ireland is of course a country full of deep seated prejudice and bigotry (myself included) and so a little homophobia is par for the course (again, to my shame – myself included). Of course he would presume two young professionals moving into a house together were gay. I mean Woodsy was even wearing a scarf. What else could we expect, this is Portadown after all.

Young single males are often seen as an odd sort, we’re either of questionable sexual orientation, involved in some form of nefarious criminal activity or drunken violence. Lock up your daughters so to speak. Sigh.

In the end we turned the house down (for various reasons), probably a good thing. It’ll save him the hassle of telling us he’s not a fan of our sort, and me the hassle of explaining.

Did ye get healed?

Today was one of those nice days in work. Normal hours for starters. So much nicer to start and end work when most of the people you know do as well. This is a rarity but all the nicer because of it. You get civilised things like lunch and even a coffee break. I was wearing my navy scrubs. I like them better than my blue ones, better pockets.

T’was also a nice day cause I only had a very few patients who I didn’t know what was wrong with them. Being bewildered in diagnosis is an all too frequent problem. The human body plays up in so many spectacularly different ways that it’s hard to get on top of them all. Telling people what’s not wrong with them is much easier than telling people what is wrong with them.

It’s (relatively) easy to spot big things, like broken legs and heart attacks but what about all those niggly pains that don’t really seem to fit into any diagnostic category. Something is causing it (something is always causing it), it may not be serious but something is definitely causing it.

It didn’t used to annoy me. As long as I could rule out the big things then I wouldn’t concern myself over the ‘minutiae’ of diagnosis. But (sigh…) no longer, as I slowly mature from baby doc to toddler doc, I’ve developed this annoying desire to actually know what’s wrong and how to fix it. This leads to many a night, reading medical books at 2am trying to work things out.

But anyhow, I will endeavour to remain positive on todays events. Along with generally knowing what was wrong with the patients I even got to do some wonderful hands on stuff like slicing open juicy abscesses and squeezing out the pus. If you tihnk I’m mad then that’s OK, I see the pus squeezing as therapy…

Indeed I even got to do one of my favorite things – sticking needles in people’s backs. Now back in the old days (I mean when I lived in NZ), I got to lots of this, central lines, chest drains, LPs, if you could stick a needle or a tube in it then I was your man.

I miss the needlework (not the cross stitch kind…). I miss the ligamentum flavum and the little give when you get into the epidural space (however rarely I felt it…), I miss the joy of the flashback of CSF, the quiet smug satisfaction of getting a needle tip into a tiny space. Ahhh. Good times.

I think I’m a frustrated surgeon at heart.

And remember… your life safe in my hands…

[Yes it’s late and I’m tired…]

Long Time Coming

Walking home in the fog and on the ice tonight I thought again about how long it’s been since I wrote anything. And i got all nostalgic about a month ago and thought “you know I should write something when I get home”. And so I am.

I’ve been so used to having lots of time and stuff to write about that being on the blog was a normal routine part of my life, like my room or work or the Volvo. I’ve come to miss the blog, even though it’s only been two weeks.

Obviously the sheer volume of comment and mail I’ve been getting demanding more blogs has also prompted me somewhat.


img_01212.jpgI (and a large part of the Portadown massive – well 10 or so…) spent new years in a wee cottage in Donegal, staying up till 5am watching Die Hard and prolnged games of Trivial Pursuit. It was of course simply wonderful. My desire, some would say itch, for travelling has left me. I have no desire left in me to see many of the great sights of the world. I have a desire to go and live and work overseas, but mere travel seems unattractive to me now. My current ambition is Donegal for a few days with a fire and a few books. Weird.img_2277.jpg

And though I meant to I never really go round to a proper Dongal blog and now it seems a bit distant.

I have upped my intense work schedule to 3 days a week in the past month, and though this seems kind of minuscule it has really seemed quite busy to me. My main problem with work is that it leaves me sleepless. I generally get home late, with my mind buzzing, clearly set for “thinking” mode and not “sleeping mode”. There have been a number of 3ams seen as I run through resuscitations in my head and look up rare syndromes on UpToDate on my phone.

Work itself is generally 8 or 9 hrs of not sitting, eating or peeing while I run around like a mad eejit, my head stressing and buzzing. And the weird thing is I love it. I love the stress and I love the buzz. Will be the end of me no doubt.

Outside of work I’ve spent hours with the headphones on fiddling with GarageBand, recording and mixing a few songs for a mate. They’re really good songs, which is nice for a change from playing with the miserabilist dirges I tend to write. I have vague notions towards doing more music stuff, but it would mean selling a kidney (or even my soul…) and buying Logic Pro and a MacBook Pro and getting all excited about compressors. I’d love to be that person, just not quite sure whether I should.

My reading has gone to pot, somehow just not getting the time to wade through books the way I used to. All these darn people getting in the way.

I have a job interview next week. For a proper job, instead of my current Mickey-Mouse (but wonderful) current position of “work when I want”. I’m not sure I want a proper job.

That about brings us up to date. Not sure you missed out on much really.


January 2008