Archive for May, 2009

I don’t want to spoil the party

Despite having a Paul that looked more like a mixture of the office and David Brent, the Beatles tribute act we went to see last night were pretty sweet.


Note the, middle aged, overweight, grade IV mallampati giving it dixie up front.

I could watch live music till the cows come home, covers or not.

Not so fussed on watching your mates mince it up to I Will Survive afterwards though. Bless ’em.

Nice places to bring the dog if she didn’t keep trying to climb out of the canoe

The last time we went canoeing it didn’t turn out well. Simy’s canoe is still lying slightly crooked and bent in his garage, along with out self-confidence and desire to canoe over weirs.

But on what appeared to be the nicest day of the year so far we couldn’t really resist.


The lime green wonder fibreglass wonderboat, that goes by the name of of pudge was back on the high seas. Or at least the river Blackwater.

Young Sparky, we put in the fancy plastic canoe, given his distaste for squatting in the open canoe. Some people it seems were not provided with knees suitable for water sports.


Simy on the other hand appears to be the next step in evolutionary process towards man kind becoming one with the canoe. He is an anterior talo-fibular ligament injury waiting to happen. Don’t try this at home.


On arrival at the Lough we were greeted by a vicious north easterly wind that would have been great for windsurfing but kind of made it impossible to get out to Coney island no matter what we tried.

We abandoned the idea for lying on the pier at Maghery and wondering at how somewhere so nice could be made such a horrible place by so few hoods.


Graffiti of the day was simply the word “tits”painted on a boarded up toilet block. There wasn’t even an accompanying badly drawn pair of boobies.The whole place is like one big walking, talking under aged drinking ASBO.

We once phoned the council about camping at the camp-site at Maghery and were advised against it by the very people who run the camp-site. Apparently there had been a few “incidents” with the locals, and no one had used it since.

Despite all this it has a lot of potential for water sports and the great outdoors, all it needs is a forest park, some nice walks by the Lough shore and it could  be one of the nicest places to go in the country.


Last two pictures illustrates the dangers available to an Irishman on a sunny day.



Nice places to bring the dog if it could ride a bicycle

We started about 2 years ago with occasional trips to scarva along the newry canal, quick stop in the pub  and back again trying not to cycle into the canal on the way back.

It has been about 10 month since the last one.


So today we were back on – quick cycle to the chippy and dine on the steps of the boat club and then cycle to scarva, avoiding the dog poo and inhaling half your body weight in fies.

The photos below illustrate the danger of trying to take photos while cycling while trying to keep flies out of your eyes.



The pub is one of those pubs where people go to watch Coronation Street. They also did a wonderful offer of buying six pints get one free. Note the “Drink Sensibly” logo in the bottom corner.


Half way back wee Philly’s (Philly-O-Fish/Lord Phildemort/Milhaus) chain broke, Not just came off, just broke. Despite some valiant, greasy fingered attempts to fix it we had to abandon the idea.

We did manage to construct a towing device out of two bicycle chains and managed to tow him the rest of the way.

Good times.

Lost in space

What we need for human society is precisely what we have – a neutral something, neither you nor I, which we can both manipulate so as to make signs to each other.

I can talk to you because we can both set up sound waves in the common air between us. Matter, which keeps souls apart, also brings them together.

It enables each of us to have an outside as well as an inside, so what are acts of will and thought for you are noises and glances for me; you are enabled not only to be, but to appear:

And hence I have the pleasure of making your acquaintance.

CS Lewis

The Problem of pain

Walk without direction

Normally this would fit into “nice places to walk the dog” series. But the dog is in heat, and is banned from public appearances without some kind of chastity pants on. In the hose she wears a pair of kiddies pants with a hole cut in the tail.

Would make for a great photo, except it’s not really my dog so should avoid taking the piss out of the poor thing too much. So instead i went walking with actual, flesh and blood human beings.

This is a lot more tiresome from a conversation point of view – the dog is a very good listener, and only interrupts to stick her tongue in your ear.

We (perhaps I….) managed to make an extremely simple walk through the boundaries of tollymore very difficult by taking the wrong track twice and then forgetting the keys for the car that we’d left at the end of the walk.

Fun all the same, if only for the tight rope walking on the trees through the blue bells and the view over the sea.

PS Wee philly as a gun in my back, hence my bizzare facial expression.





One love people get ready

As Col 4:15 would put it, a few of us meet on a sunday morning, before all the real chruches get going and take a wee look at the book of Acts and spend some time trying to work out “what it all means” so to speak.

Today we were covering what i always thought of as Christian communism, (before i had much of an idea of what either “Christian” or “communism” meant…) and in particular its application to how we live our lives.

And the phrases that kind of struck us most were “…the believers were one in heart and mind…” and “…they shared everything they had…”

Which led to a few genius suggestions by Fin:

1) we’re in such disarray and disagreement as a body of believers that we spend all our time trying to reconcile the church to itself instead of spending time trying to reconcile the world to GOD.

2) we may actually be better (or at least more comfortable) with sharing our possessions than sharing our lives together.

As a group of people we are not particularly materialistic, we have the usual young, enthusiastic Christian aversion to money and materialism – not that we necessarily live that out particularly well, we’re just uncomfortable with it in a distant sort of way.

Most of us do have a bit of an issue when it comes to doing life together. The people i love the most and count as my closest friends are exceptionally busy people. Life is there to be lived, and the world there to be changed and they are doing their very utmost to bring that about. I envy and applaud them for it. They put me to shame.

As a result they are often quite tricky to get round for dinner or get out to the pub for a night.

I miss them.

Too often, i have no idea what is going on in their lives. Yes, i know they are doing this and that, and that so and so’s married, and so and so’s having a baby, and so and so’s doing this job, but that doesn’t tell me very much about what is actually going on in their lives.

We need to figure out some way of doing this better.

If we do not figure out how to love each other then we are useless to the world around us. Though of course it’s also true that unless we get round to loving the world around us we’re just a bunch of narrow-minded self-preserving bastards.

It is interesting that amongst us (in our wee group so to speak…), different folk have different issues. Some need to learn that loving those outside the church is no excuse to avoid loving those inside the church. And there are some (like myself) who need to learn to take it outside so to speak. Just because I find it exceptionally difficult to make contact and relationship in the current context does not give me reason to hide behind my books and blogs.

What i meant to get round to but will save for another day (it’s 1am, i’m on call and the only people sober in the department are the staff – at least they were when i left), is something that has been bothering me for some time. I love my theology, and my books and erudite ideas by what seems like the whole (or at least important part of the) population of Maynooth. But when it comes to the 23 year old with 5 kids, no GCSEs, a life time of benefits and an alcohol problem (never mind an individual, how about a whole community…) – how do i explain the gospel? And more than flippin words – what does the gospel even look like from their point of view?

Aw Cmon

Medicine is renowned for using remarkably complicated names for quite simple things. From priapism to diaphoresis. In many ways it is the art of making the rather straightforward a whole lot more complicated.

We also have a habit of giving rather exciting things long and unnecessarily dull names. You may have had a oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy but i’m sure you understood it as the camera to look down your stomach.

Today in work, (which was a remarkably pleasant day with the biggest AAA i’ve ever seen who walked in looking very well…) we found the brochure for distinctive medical products, which is a place for buying those kind of useful things like the wee hammer the doctor uses for checking your reflexes or the clipboards they lean on. For some reason (which i’m still not entirely clear on) they call it Lamb Chop.

Worth a photo of the front and back cover anyhow.



It must be love

the cross of CHRIST should teach us that the only alternative to violence is self-giving love, willingness to absorb violence in order to embrace the other in the knowledge that truth and justice have been, and will be upheld by GOD.

Exclusion and Embrace

Miroslav Volf

[only 10 pages left, honestly…]


Portadown is not exactly renowned for its night life. There are very few restaurants, no cinema, no theatre, no real music venues and no cafes that open at night. There are plenty of pubs, though they are more renowned for their bigotry and sectarianism than anything else.

McConvilles is nice cause it has lots of different types of Irish Whiskey that i never even knew existed, and even has its own brand that I’m yet to try. It’s also so old that it’s now a listed building and they won’t even so much as let them paint the snugs in case it ruins the atmosphere.

So it suits me and the amateur theologian nicely for a pint on occasion and a good old theological rant. There aren’t too many people i get to have a good old theological rant with  so i take the opportunity whenever i can get it.

My friends, as much as i love them, have little interest in reading books by dead people, and debating the finer aspects of soteriology,. They’re all too busy being decent, hard working, world changing, Christian people to get involved in all this abstract naval gazing.

But the world needs someone to sit in the pub and talk about it. Just imagine if there wasn’t…

We covered Volf’s theory on non-rememberance (onyl 40 pages to go…) to the liturgy of the anglicans, to vocation, to suffering and the state of the church. Not bad for a night’s work.

Criticism as inspiration

(via ruth gledhill in the times Saturday review)

“any preaching of the gospel which fails to constitute a scandal and affront to the political establishment is in my view effectively worthless”

Reason, faith and revolution: Reflections on the god debate

Terry Eagleton

Nice places to walk the dog – No. 6-9

Given 2 days off work and 15 episodes of Lost, I had to make the most of it.  I couldn’t quite face a full 12 hours solid watching Lost, so I split it with walking the dog and driving the Antrim Coast Road. Luckily seemed to have got the nicest day of the year so far for it too.

Having already been in Belfast in the morning I couldn’t quite face the whole coast road from Carrickfergus and all that. Instead I cut the corner and headed over the hills to Cushendun and let the dog out for a quick piddle and a paddle.




From there round the usual, windy, Torr Head Rd, and finally to somewhere I’ve managed to never have a dander round before. At the tail end of the Torr Head Rd is a wee turn off up a single track road over a few cattle grids and past a lot of sheep, lies Murlough bay.

The road becomes a track and ends up at what looks like the nicest wee holiday home in the world. At least it did when I was there.

I had come prepared with flask of hot water and some coffee and perched myself on the rocks over looking the Irish sea and watched the sun go down the ridge behind. I didn’t see a soul (I’ll not start on whether the dog has one…) which kind of made the whole experience so good.



I finished up with an old favorite – white park bay. Mainly cause it reminds me of one of my favorites from New Zealand.

It was also gloriously empty.



After all this activity, I watched Lost till 2am while the dog slept. Such a day.

If there was nothing to remember

I quite enjoy getting older. Amongst most people I know this seems a bit against the grain. Getting old is something to fear and not to talk about. Something to (ludicrously really…) avoid at all costs.

Perhaps it is the fact I still look about 16 years old, the fact that I await puberty and facial hair to make it’s appearance, the fact that my basal metabolic rate keeps me as a skinny wee bugger despite the beer and burgers (have to say I’m glad of the last one…)

There will come a time when I start forgetting things, that I stop getting smarter, and more importantly when I can’t run or climb trees. That will be a day to lament. But not yet.

As animals, we’re on the down slope from our late teens, on virtually every level, from nephrons to neurons, we’re on a (hopefully slow) gradual decline.

The thing that does bother me about getting older is memory.

There was a character called Brutha in a Terry Pratchet book i read as a kid (Small Gods) who had the odd talent of an eidetic memory. He just remembered things. Everywhere he’d ever been, everything he’d ever read. It was just there in front of his eyes when it needed recalled. He was always incredulous when other people said to him that they didn’t remember, as he just couldn’t quite grasp the concept of non-remembrance.

Now I have nowhere near a memory to that degree but I have a tendency to remember an awful lot of things. Mainly this is at work in patients. If I have seen someone before in work, I will remember where I have seen them and in which cubicle and what was wrong with them – though I will probably forgotten how I screwed up the diagnosis or something but maybe that’s just a selective memory.

Patients are how I remember medicine. They’re like a hook to hang your coat on. I only know lots about HSV type I encephalitis because of the guy we had in the corner bed of the unit in NZ who ended up as a bit of vegetable because of it. I remember his name, his wife, what they both did for a living, the son who was a dentist who I spoke to on the phone, where the lesions where on his MRI, the fact that the first PCR was negative, and the way he waved with a tiny bend at the right wrist cause nothing else in his arm worked.

I cannot forget this. Not that I have sat down and tried. If I’m honest I’ve probably done the opposite. I have nurtured the memory. So that I will get it right if I see it again. If you’ve seen the bit in Heat where DeNiro and Pacino have the cup of coffee, and Pacino talks about all the dead people from the murders then you’ll get what I mean.

I have hundred of images, all arranged like little movies in my head, of all the patients I’ve ever seen (well a substantial proportion anyhow). I remember scans and faces and places better than their names but I remember them. I remember the dead ones better than the ones who got better.

I have kept a journal since I was 16 (when I first found unrequited love and my Dad found a sister he’d never known existed – true story…) and if I read it I will have a memory for every day.

I used to get worried when I was younger that at some point I would have gone through so many new experiences and new memories that perhaps my head might explode when it reached some pre-defined bursting point. Or have a “break-down” which was what grown ups used to call what happened to people who had trouble with their “nerves”.  Neither appears to have happened yet. And I need no one to facetiously point out that it is because I have an exceptionally big head.

In Life After GOD, one of the characters gets scared in his mid-twenties crisis, mainly because he fears that once you’ve been through your teenage years and fallen in love that there won’t be any new experiences.

What I’ve found is that there still are plenty of new experiences (though driving the volvo will never give me the same thrill I had driving my 950cc white 205 the day I passed my driving test), though these are increasingly displaced by memories. And all the new experiences you come to along the way are affected by same memories.

Even more disappointingly I have discovered that my memory has a predisposition towards pain, misery and suffering. I find it hard to look at a happy toddler and not picture a hospital bed some 70 years in the future.

This has perhaps not done me any favours when it came to recently losing my Dad.

[Well it’s not that I lost him, I’m pretty sure he’s still in that big hole we dug in the graveyard, we did put an awful lot of dirt on top just to make sure… Though I have lost one parent, I do still have one left, losing two would just be careless…

OK so I’m taking the piss out of death, partly because, as a family we’re again somewhat predisposed to do that, but perhaps more that if Christians can’t take the piss out of death then who can? (i think i want Spike Milligan’s “i told you i was ill” on my grave…)]

Sorry, back to the main thread. I think there is one somewhere.

The problem is that I remember everything. I wake up every day remembering all this stuff that happened. And I will carry it around with me for the rest of my life.

And this is nothing to do with how you deal or process the memory – an important issue in itself – I hold no anger or doubt or bitterness in my heart. I just have the memory.  And how do I deal with that?

In the Great Divorce, it goes on about how we can’t expect to take anything of Hell into Heaven. It just won’t let us. And it has this wonderful bit in it when it says

that heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory… and that is why at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to  blackness down there, the blessed will say “we have never lived anywhere except in heaven…”

Volf goes a step further in talking about the non-remembrance and even the forgetting of memory, that is required for the process of reconciliation (both of us to GOD and us to each other). With the obvious backing that GOD remembers our sins no more and hinted at in Revelation (quoting Isaiah) as “the first things have passed away“.

He talks of GOD remembering our sins for the purpose of forgetting them. Leading us to do the same he states:

…forgetting the suffering is better than remembering it, because wholeness is better than brokenness, the communion of love better than the distance of suspicion, harmony better than disharmony. We remember now in order that we may forget then; and we will forget then in order that we may love without reservation…

Not that he expects us to achieve all this before the dawn of the new age, but it at least should give us the right direction to walk towards.

It strikes me as it does the character in the great divorce following MacDonald’s words about heaven working backwards:

is that not very hard, Sir?

If only you could see yourself like I see you

Foy Vance attracts a certain kind of crowd. Mostly people i know it seems. The Lowly Knights do the same. Not that i’m complaining – it at least gives me an active social life that extends beyond facebook.

First off the – Spring and Airbrake has some serious structural issues with what looks like some fairly major supporting pillars right in front of the stage. If you’ve been there you’ll know you have to adopt the position leaning slightly to one side to to see either the lead singer or the drummer. Not that the rest of the band aren’t important – i love you all really, i just like a decent view.


Second – as handy as the iPhone is, it takes pretty crappy photos.

The Knights still pull off a fairly impressive show. I’m waiting hopefully for some new material if they ever get round to recording it.

Foy Vance gets all the applause simply for the quality of his musicianship. Not wanting to be offensive as I love the music scene in Belfast, but Foy Vance is on a whole different level when it comes to sheer talent. Though every time I see him he seems to have collected a few more DD3s to fill out the sound.


Top moment was Foy slagging off Skeeno’s piano. Not Skeeno, just his piano.

Makes me want to go into negotiations with Simy to buy his Lowden off him.

PS And a pleasure chatting with song of soul and FF amongst others when I was there.

PPS And have recorded the basis of a new song for those interested. Which may only be Transfarmer and Skeeno but hey…

Free Radicals

“the truly revolutionary character of JESUS’s proclamation lies precisely in the connection between the hope he gives to the oppressed and the radical change he requires of them.”

Miroslav Volf

Exclusion and Embrace

The old friends

I’ve got away pretty easily this year with weddings. A couple of years ago I had 6 in 6 weeks. Lots and lots of debenhams vouchers.

The list of friends to be wed is slowly decreasing – the next thing will be the babies.

Some of the best weddings have been with the Junio Ho’s (junior house officers) – the 7 guys i did my first year as a doctor with. All of us slightly scared and confused as to what we were meant to do each day – all a bit scared we might cock sometihng up and kill somone. Good times.

We still all meet up about every 3 months or so, just to catch up on how we’re all getting on. We all go to each others weddings and the guys blew me away when they all came to Dad’s funeral. Better friends than even i thought.


Yesterday we were all together again for a wedding. A good big Catholic wedding in South Armagh that left us ignorant prods feeling all awkward and not knowing when to stand up and sit down and all that.

It was even sunny enough to sit outside and admire the view. An odd but always pleasant experience in Ireland.


The reception was just over the border and it always gives you that moment when you go the bar to order two drinks and you give the bar man ten euro and you wait for your change and then you realise that no, there is no change and in fact you still owe him a couple more euro. Financial crisis and all that.

Managed to successfully avoid dancing all evening. Fine acheivement i must say.

Music for a found harmonium

Not owning a TV i’ve managed to keep myself free from the need of buying a TV license. Though I still try my best to enjoy everythig the BBC has to offer.

Most recently that was an invitation concert with the Ulster Orchestra that the BBC kindly give free tickets for (which I sponged off the Office).

So on wednesday evening I sat in the balcony in the ulster hall watching men and women in black suits pull off some pretty remarkable music. Classical music is really only any fun watched live – listening to it on the hi-fi just isn’t quite the same really.

Watching 4 guys in an indie band manage to play the same notes in the same time with the same energy is pretty impressive but watching 40 people hit the same notes at the same time is so much more impressive.

(NB – the Office’s hand makes a rare appearance in the photo below – and he actually appears to be trying to push over that tuba player, such violence…)



May 2009