Archive for March, 2008

Something in my way

“It is by seeing the cross and the community beneath it that me come to believe in GOD.”

The cost of discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Most (in no way do I qualify that most…) people have a bad view of Christianity because of the Christians. Indeed I often have a bad view of Christians because of the chrisitans. We are indeed a bunch of idiots, making the most horrid misrepresentations of the gospel and the deity we claim allegiance to.

History is littered with evil and injustice done in the name of GOD.

Our major problem in bringing the gospel (and yes this is of course one of many problems, blah, blah etc – I like making bold overstatements, they just read better…) is not GOD but ourselves.

Whenever I have a good old spiritual tete a tete with someone it (almost) always becomes clear to me that I agree with them. That when they say they don’t believe in GOD (or JESUS or Christianity), they really mean they don’t believe in god. And I don’t believe in god either.

god_closer.jpgI find myself in agreement, that I don’t believe in the god they don’t believe in either. Whatever it is the atheist or the agnostic is disbelieving in it tends not to be GOD. It tends to be one of our little pygmy  gods (a Lewisism of course), with long beards and a toga who’s fretfully running around the faring poorly in public debates with Richard Dawkins.

And this is no one’s fault but our own. We have made such a bad show of representing GOD that we somehow lost the capital letters along the way.

It seems true that you cannot see the CHRIST for the Christians.
It is the community that lives beneath the cross that is making such a fire and a noise with our temple worship and our sacrifices and our feast days that the cross gets somewhat obscured with the smoke.

The glory of GOD had to be veiled with cloud from the Israelites so that they would not perish. We seem to be doing that job perfectly well on our own.

The Price of Winter

spiral-clock.jpgCan I declare winter officially over? Marked by the bi-annual excuse for people to turn up late for work – the old clock change. I turned up for night shift with on Saturday with no notion of the clocks changing so it was kind of a pleasant experience to realise I had an hour less work to do. Much better than realising you’re there an hour extra.

It always provides the amusing conundrum of how to time your notes. Given that you make a note after seeing a patient at 0300 and then go back and see him a half hour later at 0230.  At 3am I am easily confused by such.

I think it sneaked up on me cause the weather has been uniformly miserable since some time in late August, and I see little sign of change.

Got home from work on the most glorious day of the year so far and instead of hitting the sack I juiced up on the coffee and sat on the front door step squinting into the sun reading Robinson Crusoe and dreaming I was hunting goats on an island not dissimilar to the one from Lost. I was sitting outside wearing a scanty three layers and my fingers weren’t blue. Surely this is British Summertime?

We did proceed to the north coast where we were met with sleet and hail stones but maybe I expected too much for the first day.

No fear of falling

There are moments in life where you catch yourself and think, ‘bloody hell, I’m really enjoying myself here’. Even as one of those odd ones who seems to enjoy almost anything given the right frame of mind and enough coffee, this comes as a frequent surprise.

And yes I know I look like a sour ass bastard a lot of the time but ‘inside I’m dancing’ that kind of thing.

n530591995_730110_4003.jpgSunday the four cars hit the road for Alton Towers. Our day’s entertainment.

We did this 2 years when we were last here. A bunch of big kids trapped as young professionals.

And I can highly recommend a cold, slightly damp sunday in march for a trip to Alton Towers. No one else comes then, so there’s no queues and less vomiting children. Our longest queue was 5 minutes. This compares raher favourably with the average 45 min wait last time we were here.

Now of course the big fancy rides were all wonderful and phil did even manage to lose a hat on one of them. But the real bant was on a wee kiddies ride called the runaway minetrain. This was your average rollercoaster for small children and had a small bar across the lap, so no major safety concerns.
We loved it, we took to singing songs (such populr hits as – ‘we’re not brazil we’re northern ireland‘, ‘away in a manger‘, ‘He’s Andy G, Andy G, Andy G‘ ,‘all you need is spud’) loudly and obnoxiously, We got to know the three ride attendants names (Marty, Joe and Craig) and provided individualised songs for each (such as ‘Knowing me, knowing Joe – ah ha’). We all thrive on irony don’t we.

Half way through the day with the banter flowing it struck me how much I was enjoying myself. Occasionally I think I forget how to do that. Joy is a moral good – how do I forget such fundamentals.

How we enjoy our food, music, drink, banter and even eachother should be our chosen specialist subject. Surely us christians should be leading the way in teachng the world how to properly enjoy the world around us (and not merely indulge and consume).

One Horse Town

wales08.jpgOn the road again. It has been at least 3 months. I need little road trips to make up for the lack of flying, and general lack of NZ in my life, I’m not sure it takes my mind off things. Probably makes it worse, but then why not live a little eh?…

This is a farewell trip, farewell to wales. Farewell to the valleys. Farewell to Ruabon… where I hear you ask?

Ruabon is a village just south of Wrexham, just over the border in wales. To be honest it seems pretty English, except the signs are in a funny language as well as English, which is I suppose at least like home. I’m not sure what I’d expect to find in a welsh village, but I always expected more of male voice choirs and ex-stereophonics drinking in old men’s pubs. Maybe that’s unfair.

I have two friends from home (uni mates) who work here. To be honest I forget how they ended up here in the first place but I imagine it was pretty random. We’ve made the odd trip over on previous occasions to halve average age in the pub and go to Alton Towers.

But it’s all coming to an end. Both Nicci and Skaters are coming home to jobs in the homeland. They’ve enjoyed wales but its time is done.

So 15 (yes 15 – it’s a good turn out the organising committee are most chuffed) of us by road and boat and air have made it to Ruabon to watch Ireland disintegrate in front of an equally dreadful england team and celebrate as wales play out of their skins against the Frenchies.

So now we sit, packed into the living room listening to Fred’s cheesiest iPod playlist and watching Big G put his all into singing along with total eclipse of the heart, complete with 80s power ballad moves.

It was the best of times it was the worst of times.

Better do Better

epa0966l.jpgI’ve got myself all worked up now into an angry irate blog against the NHS. Well maybe not against the NHS, more of a passionate defence of what we hold dear.

Since arriving back (I’m thinking of dividing my life into BNZ – Before New Zealand and ANZ – After New Zealand) I have become increasingly frustrated with my beloved hospital. Though I suspect none of this is peculiar to me alone.

To be perfectly frank I think all the poor dying, sick people we’re meant to care for are getting a pretty raw deal. I think all the poor kids pulled from car wrecks are getting a raw deal, all the wee grannies dumped to our care get a rough time of it. Even the kiddies, the babies, and the mums are getting a raw deal. Health service has a kind of hollow ring to it.

Now this is of course not universal, lots of people get a great deal from the NHS and will tell of wonderful experiences. But then that’s the whole point – we’re not succeeding on a universal level, we’re  not even succeeding on a passable level.

Basic principles of medicine (these are more mine than Hippocrates, thought up while waiting for the pizza on a Friday night) could go as follows:

1) relieve suffering – because we’re generally crap at actually fixing things. People die, we’re crap at stopping that. We can make the process of human existence slightly more palatable. This is a long way from euthanasia.

2) we occasionally fix people – see note above.

3) deal with people with grace and dignity and kindness

4) understand something of what it means to be in their shoes.

5) ensure patient safety – in other words that it should be the disease that kills the patient, not us.

And we’re not doing great, we’re working in a system, that’s akin to a recently departed horse getting the beating of it’s life.

The NHS is full of people who hate their jobs, at least that’s how they talk. At tea breaks, all people do is complain about how busy their department, how they’re pushed to breaking point, how they’re frustrated with their jobs, their wards and their patients. Everyone sounds like they’re one crisis away from quitting.

I feel sorry for the students, the guys coming through in every discipline. They’re exposed to nothing but stress, pressure and frustration with a system that seems to have no answer.

The depressing tea break conversation is coming from smart, committed, dedicated people. With a desire to do the job right, but seeing no way to do it in the system they’re in.

I love my job, I believe I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have it. I feel it’s nothing but an honour and a privilege to be a part of people’s lives at some of their most significant moments. It kills me to see those around me struggling to feel anything positive about the place. It pisses me off to see patients getting treated like shit all the time.

They get sorted eventually, but they get neither the time, respect nor treatment they deserve.

The NHS will continue to survive on people busting their ass for their patients. But simply surviving doesn’t really count for much.

The dear, brilliant, hard working people (though not everyone in the NHS is up for a sainthood, there’s lazy gits here too) I work with will continue to work in a system that is being continually squeezed in successive efficiency drives to meet targets to fulfill a politicians mandate. No one ever stopped to think whether an efficient NHS is good for the patient. Maybe a hospital works better (for the patient) at 80% capacity (though clearly less efficient)

But anyway, I’m not going anywhere (what else would I do), I continue to love the job, we’ll all keep trucking along to a mediocre standard till a few more people die unneccessairily, and a few thousand more get sub-standard treatment and maybe we’ll start thinking about properly funding the place…

Trying to throw your arms around the world

I had a night last week, when I lay awake in bed for a few hours, the good old fashioned insomnia – head buzzing , in no way ready for some good REM sleep. Usually it’s A&E shifts that leave me like this, running every patient through in my head.

But tonight there was no A&E, New Zealand. My newest and most recent means of escape, my newest and most preferred means of redemption.

It is true that NI is cold and wet and dark for staggering amounts of the year. I had somehow forgotten this, the Norn Irish winter was reminding me of this, much to my disgust. As far as I remembered, in NZ it didn’t rain once in my year there, in fact everyone smiled and skipped and sang songs, and never said or did anything nasty, and I never once felt alone or scared or bored or sore. My memory is of course a bit patchy.

img_0553.jpgIt is true that I loved my time in NZ, that I would have loved to finish my time there, that I lament the dear wonderful people who I knew there that I am so terrible at keeping in touch with. It is true that I may even make it back there some day, as long as the oil doesn’t run out first(JT I miss you so…), or I get married or some equally disastrous situation (joking honestly…).

But I know it’ll be a while. And I know it’s not up to me.

It is true that I have a lot of work to do here, I know I need to be here, in my calm, sane, clear thinking moments (there was one in the late nineties, I remember it well…) I know this. Just not at 2am with Hawke’s Bay and surfing and trips to Wairoa and running round the estuary listening to Pedro the Lion floating through my head.

I am easily distracted.

Ballad of a broken man

The older I get the more I worry about who I’m turning into. The more you worry that you’re gonna end up like your parents. Scared that you won’t end up anywhere near as good.

My consciousness of sin and inability to be GOD used to drive me to my knees and to humility, it seems that I used to accept correction. I could learn lessons and take them and rejoice in the fact that “yes I am a *&^%$£@ asshole”, yet gloriously redeemed by GOD’s grace.

But it seems something’s changed (at least for today…) I seem to get only angrier as life goes on. My frustration with my sin and pride, my loneliness, my bitterness. All dealt with with such anger and bitterness in my heart.

It was easier when I was in NZ (that old chestnut), when I wasn’t so connected to everything. When not having to give a shit was an option. When I could fool myself into believing I was a free and easy soul, “we have all the time in the world” to live,  love and be free and rest our minds on the head rests on trains and stare at the country passing us by. When it was all like the movies and I could pretend the fantasy was all real.

Maybe I’m turning into a miserable lonely old bastard, finding redemption in work and escapism in books and music.

Sometimes I think I’m just another post modern hopeless traveller, no idea where I came from and not a clue whereI’m going. I enjoyed Kerouac far too much.

And this is all I contribute. My sin.  My waste and pride, “the shit I walk on comes in with me.” makes me wonder how I ever managed to steal GOD’s glory with a current and back catalogue like this.

Why so downcast o my soul. Rejoice in the lord for I will yet praise him.


March 2008