Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Circus Boy Over and Out

(Nicked from Baggage Reclaim)

In the end, and bearing in mind that I had by now chucked Circus Boy out in the early hours twice now, I DID text him a good luck message on Tuesday night last week. No reply, but I wasn't particularly bothered, cos there wouldn't have been much to say.

Wednesday we set off for Edinburgh quite early, and it is fair to say that during the journey my mind was with Circus Boy, wondering if he was managing the 20 mile charity unicycle ride ok. Son wasn't feeling too well on the way up, not sure what was wrong, but h was off his food, and when we got to the Premier Inn, he didn't want to do anything except settle in, watch TV then have an early tea in the on-site restaurant. By 6.30 he was in his bed, and I was watching DVDs on his laptop so as not to disturb him. HOWEVER, I had my phone on vibrate, right on my tummy, so as not to miss the call from Circus Boy, because I was excited to hear how he had got on, and also was by now planning wedding dresses, party favours and the like. Ok, so I wasn't really - I was actually planning fit sex on Saturday night, but that doesn't sound so romantic an may even slightly dull folks' sympathy, and I do like to play to the audience.

7pm came and went. As did 8pm and 9pm. By 9.30 I didn't know whether to be worried or annoyed. I sent a text saying, 'did you make it ok?' Note the lack of 'xx', which is my habitual text ending unless it is work. Friends who are reading, here is a little tip. If you have let me down and you get a text without even a single 'x', then you can assume I am royally pissed off with you. One 'x' meaning I am merely disappointed in you, and most of all you've let yourself down.

No reply. 10.30 came and went. So by now I am silently (so as not to awaken Son) apoplectic. IT'S JUST A FECKING TEXT! All that is required is a quick 'yes' or 'no' answer, I will assume you are celebrating your success and all will be well. Have to say, this really annoys me generally - when I send a text, or put a message on FB, and I know it's been seen and there's no reply. It's like talking to someone who just turns away and ignores you. Downright rude in my book.

So anyway, it of course occurred to me that he may be in hospital unconscious or in prison. In either of these cases, his phone would be off. So I called to see if it rang - and it DID! So NO EXCUSES, he was just completely ignoring me. So I fired off an arsey text: 'Wel since ur not in prison or hospital, it would appear that my suspicion that you only communicate wiv me wen u want something was correct. If u want something in future, just ask & please don't waste both our time with the pretending to be a friend thing.'

Thus satisfied, I fell asleep.

Next day Son was fully recovered and we had a brilliant day at Edinburgh Zoo, including seeing the pandas and watching their mating behaviour, and then we went to the sea at North Berwick. On the way back, my phone rang, but Son couldn't get it out of the back of the car fast enough. It was Circus Boy, but whereas usually I would have pulled over and phoned him back, I really couldn't be bothered. Instead, when we were back at the Premier Inn, I texted, 'sorry missed call, was driving.' He didn't respond in any way.

Friday we spent the whole day in Edinburgh, doing the bus tour, Our Dynamic Earth, and Edinburgh Castle (including the Honours of Scotland and the room where James VI and I was born). We also ate at my favourite Italian restaurant, Gordon's, which has gone upmarket in decor, but the food is exactly how I remembered it. 

Saturday we made really good time, and were home by lunchtime, so we watched a 'Miranda' marathon in the afternoon. I am a total convert.

Sunday night I had a text from Circus Boy 'what's got into you now? How am I a user?' Aaaah! Sending a provocative text are we?! Ha, that didn't work, I didn't even see it cos I had gone to bed, and I wouldn't have responded anyway.

Then last night he called, and again I didn't answer it (just imagined Heather Small singing 'what have you done today to make you feel proud?'). He can damn well bugger off, it's too late being over me like a particularly garrulous rash now. If he hadn't been so busy talking about himself the other night, he would have heard how being with Steve has made me look at my life and decide I'm tired of fake relationships, even friendships. Yes, I could treat him the way he treats me, and not reply to his texts or calls, then call him when I want something, but I'm not like that, and that isn't a friendship. In any case, people like that aren't interested in people who play them at their own game - they want soft-hearted forgiving people who let them get away with murder, just like I used to do. But no more. No drama, no arguments, but in future I will silently and deadlily (not really a word, but should be) remove the dead wood from the forest of my life. 


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Circus Boy and the Charity Unicycle

This weekend was a time of anonymous booty texts. First was on Saturday, when I got a text from someone asking if I was out. I texted back 'who is this?' and it turns out it was some cop-off from *ages* ago. Well, nope, I was in bed. Alone. On a Saturday. This is my life now. But far better that than be out with some scumbag who thinks he can just pop up when he feels like it and that will be fine. <DOUBLE STANDARD ALERT!!>

So I texted back, 'y u contactin me now?'. Scumbag replied, 'cos I've been away xx :-)' Stick your kisses and smiley faces, I am nto impressed, Mister.

'Oh yes, away in that place where they chop off your fingers....'

Unsurprisingly, that was the end of that.

On Monday morning, I awoke to find a missed call and a text from  a number I didn't recognise. The text said, 'hey karen, how are you? Hopefully see you soon :-)X' Although I didn't recognise the number, I kind of assumed from the content that it was probably Circus Boy with a new phone, and I texted him back later on Monday (when chances are he would be up) saying, 'yeah, good, ta. Who is this?'  Then I got a bit worried and paranoid that it was someone to do with Steve trying to find stuff out about me.

But first guess had been right, it was Circus Boy. He phoned on Monday evening to see if he could come over to see me. I hadn't bothered to pick up the last time he phoned, cos I find him slightly exhausting (and not a in a sexual way!), but this time I was feeling on top form, so I thought why not, but I did say I had to be up early in the morning, sort of making it clear I wasn't up for shenanigans. Or so I thought.

He turns up here at a pretty early time for him, and since it was only yesterday I am able to remember all the things we talked about. I say 'we'. In fact, he talked while I kind of sat here open-mouthed at his performance over the next 8 hours.

First we had a run-down of what he has been up to recently - by which I mean yesterday, when he was fundraising for charity (even going on local radio) and almost got arrested for winding up a Policeman who didn't really 'get' him. So he put up a big sign outside the police station slagging them off. He is now trying to get sponsors for his unicycle ride of 20 miles, whilst simultaneously avoiding the police. This was also why he had a new phone number, as they had his old number and he no longer wants to speak to them!

Also, he is in a play, and 'getting kit together to make music'. To prove this, he performed his part in the play, and was trying to get me to act the other parts, but erm, I don't know them! And then he asked about me, and I told him we had been to a Doctor Who convention and met David Tennant and Billie Piper, to which he said, 'Oh, yes, I saw the.... I mean you told me last time I was here.' This is a lie, I'm almost a hundred per cent sure I didn't tell him about it because I doubt I'd have had chance (he was only here a few hours), and he wouldn't have SEEN anything cos the photo was in Son's room. He'd seen it on my Facebook before I blocked him, I am SURE.

Then he was talking about every girlfriend he has had since he was 15. This was actually really interesting, and arose because he'd started talking about what he had learned from one of his recent girlfriends, that he had been trying to 'save'. I'd said, 'have you never had a normal girlfriend? Have they all been horrible or crazy?' cause to listen to him you would think so. After hearing the run-down of his lovelife for the last 10 years,I know it is true, with the exception of one three month relationship with another girl so nice that when they split, she let him stay in her house with his new girlfriend. Oh - yes, wait up - that is CRAZY!

Then he goes, 'this is what my friends say I'm doing wrong, I'm going for all these girls who are needy and drain me of energy, when I would be better off with someone who is sorted and caring.' Long stare. Luckily, I can spot a 'let me in your pants, love' phrase when I hear one.

He then asked if I thought I had learned anything from my previous relationships. I started to say about how the relationship with Steve had turned my life around cos of making me look at why I'd let it happen etc, and then when I mentioned how I'd always thought of my childhood as happy until I looked back and realised it wasn't like other people's, he sort of jumped in and told me all the ins and outs of his relationship with his parents and siblings. Not gonna write it here, but suffice it to say that it raised a few red flags in my mind, to do with violence and also to do with his relationship with his mother. I've always wondered if he sees me as a mother figure, and the amount of counselling I did last night on this family subject makes me more sure that it is at least part of it.

So eventually he started saying how well I was looking, and we were talking about keeping fit. By this time, it is the early hours, and I had sort of thought to myself, 'I could easily be friends with this guy, and the red flags then won't matter, because it's just friends, and he is so funny, and he gets me, in fact, I feel astonishingly normal around him, and I don't think I even fancy him any more.' When at this point we started showing off our exercise achievements to eachother. Oh Jillian Michaels, you are definitely my hero, he was very impressed by my variations on a press-up, and he was showing me some others, and some yoga moves, and then he got hot and took off his clothes, and OH MY GOD I SO DO FANCY HIM.

All that was left was to put the world to rights for a bit  - again, this was his vision, not really mine, I was more of an interviewer, and I was not Jeremy Paxman. Then I sort of said how he would need to go because I had to be up at 6.30am - it was probably getting on to 4 by this time. He went to do a roll-up for the road, and was saying I should come and see him finish his unicycle ride tomorrow (Wednesday). I told him I am off to Scotland so I can't. He then said I should come to the open-mic night on Thursday, but again, I am in Scotland. It's not like it's likely I would drive up for the day!

Then when he'd rolled his fag, he said, 'can I stay?' Dear God, it's like last time revisited! NO! But I was nice about it - it was only cos I did need some sleep cos Tuesdays are a tough work day for me.

I told him to text me to let me know he'd made it through his unicycle ride ok (I'd already sponsored him), and he said he would do better than that and ring me after 7, when he has his free minutes. A big hug and a little kiss and a quick discussion about the sky and the state of the moon, and he was gone.

It has only been after the fact that I have realised I have missed out on FIT SEX. If I can break beds when I am a lazy non-exercising mare, what am I capable of now? I may never know! And there is also the little matter of me liking him more whenever I spend time with him. That's the reason I didn't just go for the easy shag, cos I don't want to get too involved and hurt. Even so, I didn't sleep a damn wink, was too buzzing,  might just as well have let him stay.

He's a strange boy, and still WAY TOO YOUNG, and I cannot for the life of me think why he wants to shag me after hearing the rundown of all his lovely YOUNG girlfriends. I try very hard to tell myself he is just looking for an easy shag, although surely there mist be easier ones out there? I cannnot work out what he wants from me. But I hold out a little hope, and an even littler torch. I am now going to text him a good luck message for tomorrow, and try not to wonder about whether he really will phone. I'm not usually a first texter, but I'm thinking I have knocked him back twice now, maybe I should show a little bit of interest to make up for it.

Or should I?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Valentine's Day

I'm a single girl, so I suppose I shouldn't love Valentines Day as much as I do. It doesn't seem like it is cool to admit to liking it, even if you ARE in a relationship. But I love it; I do. It's a day to celebrate LOVE, what's not to like?

I've been a fan since secondary school, when it was one of the highlights of the year. It was something we all got totally wrapped up in, the talk of the playground for weeks, sending cards to your crush, and waiting to see if anyone would send you one. Then the endless post-mortems and analysis. Not that I had moch to contribute by way of raw material - the only school valentine I ever got was when I was in sixth form, and was from a really cute lad - in FIRST year! (erm, I believe this translates as year 7 in new money). Ironically, he will now be too old for me to consider dating him :-O

<GRATUITOUS BRAGGING ALERT> Then, my first year at physio school, I had the Valentine's haul to end all Valentine's hauls. I got six, yup, count 'em, SIX Valentines cards. All from different people. One of whom I hadn't even snogged.<End of gratuitous bragging>

So I know it can be done, and this contributes to the completely irrational hope that I have every year, this one included, that I will get a shed-load of cards. Or even ONE. But being completely honest, I don't have the inclination to put in the effort required. Those six cards represented six men cultivated over a good six months - two of them for two years. Like spinning plates, it's a skill, it takes practice and effort, and it can all too easily come crashing down around your ears. As it did for me eventually, in the car-crash that became known as the 'why no-one at Nottingham University is speaking to me' incident.

Of course, there's been loads of years where I've been part of a couple, and I love the whole 'being treated' aspect of it. So what if your bloke is lovely all year round anyway? It's still nice to have an official day when you know you will be getting some flowers and choccies, when you can treat eachother and celebrate your relationship. And if your man is a bit of a duffer when it comes to romance, it's a chance for him to get with the programme and give you a card and some petrol station flowers. They all count, and the love expressions can be as individual as a couple is - there's no law says it has to cost loads of money. Love on Valentine's Day might be a cup of coffee and a chocolate heart, or it might be a dedication on the radio, or it might be rose petals and a rumpled duvet - there are no rules, there's no need to enter the commercialised game if you don't want to.

But this year, I am once again alone:

It doesn't bother me - I'm alone but not lonely. I'm not the sort of person who feels bad seeing couples in love and showing it - quite the reverse. It makes me happy to think that there are happy people out there, that there are people who are loving and who are loved. That all around the world are genuine loving couples, and despite all that has happened, that this can happen to me too. And even if it doesn't, well, it doesn't matter. I've been in love and been loved. I've had my lovely Valentines Days, I've done the meals, the champagne, the shagging in the graveyard. :-) Now it's someone else's turn.

And lest I should forget that there are WAY worse things than being single, I remind myself of the last valentine card that Steve gave me. 'With love from your Boyfiend.' How very right he was - and how very much happier I can be, now I am fiend-less! This is my happy year, and tomorrow will be one of my happiest days, even if I do have to be content with nothing more than my Dogs Trust sponsor dog Valentine.

Whoever you are with (pets and cuddly toys included), wherever you are, have a wonderful Valentine's Day, and SPREAD THE LOVE :-)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Gate and Other Ex Problems

Today I found something even more spooky than an open gate - though it had been last Wednesday again, I kind of put it down to high winds, cos realistically speaking, Steve would actually have to get up in the morning to have done it, and that is highly unlikely to happen.

This morning, I was looking out the kitchen window waiting for the kettle to boil, and thinking that the garden really needs a good tidy, and working out if I have enough rubbish in house/garden to justify hiring a skip, when I noticed that the 'stalking chair' (a chair which, wherever I put it, always seems to end up outside the patio door, where someone would sit if they were looking in) had something on it. A paper something. Popped out, it was a letter - but in the rain, it had turned to a soggy mass of inky papier mache. Something tells me it's a good thing I can't read it.

I'm not sure what it is with the exes at the moment. Got a FB message last night, quite late on, from my first love. On FB that day, I'd done a meme that is going around where the person you get it from gives you and age, and you list where you lived, what you drove etc, and one of the questions was 'who had your heart', and I had named him. He said I'd had his heart too, and was telling me that when we were together, the grass always seemed greener, but it turned out it never was, and no-one had ever lived up to me. I gently replied that this was what nostalgia and beer goggles did to a person. This morning there was another message saying that in the cold light of day, and remembering all the things about me that annoyed him intensely, he still felt the same. I've not written the words he used for either message, but suffice to say they are two of the most beautiful things anyone has ever written to me. Though he does have a way with words. I remember once, when he cheated on me, we got back together because he sent me the most wonderful poem. A few years later, listening to Bowie's Space Oddity, I realised 'the poem' was the lyrics to Letter to Hermione. 

I was really confused about what to do with this. It isn't the sort of thing you can read and not respond to - especially as FB now shows when someone has read a message. Then in a fit of genius I replied that I was stunned that he had found anything about me irritating.

It kind of bothered me though - we have become friends, had a really lovely New Year's Eve with him and his WIFE and son last year. I feel like I don't want to lose that, but I don't understand what his motives are. He must know that I am not about to go back there. He's already apologised for how he treated me, and I accepted the apology, not that it was needed, I was pretty horrible to him in the end too. So. It's all gonna just sit there like a big, fat, flattering, but ultimately a bit suspicious-looking, elephant.

Men eh?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Accident Hospital Kiss and Tell

I've had a few brushes with famous people - famous at the time, or who went on to be famous. Don't get too excited, this isn't someone who is a household name, like Bob Geldof (yes, I have a tale about him). But it is someone who went on to become somewhat famous in his own field.

I first met Doctor G_ (for that is what I shall call him for the time being) one Saturday, not long after the whole Doctor House Officer debacle. I'd been asked to see an old lady on Ward C who had a chest infection. When I examined her, she had really thick, stringy sputum, really hard to cough up, and this meant she needed nebulised saline, and was also possibly dehydrated. So I checked her fluid balance chart, and it looked like she'd hardly drunk anything for the last couple of days, which was a bit terrible.

Off I trotted to the ward office to report back to the doctor - Doctor G_. '.......And she's probably really dehydrated looking at her fluid intake, she definitely needs fluids pushed...'

'No she isn't.'

'You what?' I couldn't believe he'd snapped at me like that. It made it worse that he wasn't even looking at me as I was telling him stuff, he was half writing notes and half just looking out the door behind me, like he was waiting for someone.

'She's not dehydrated.'

'She is.'

No she's not.'

Well we could have stood there like that for an eternity, but since I was the more proactive of the two of us, I dodged into his eyeline, stared hard at him and said, 'come with me.'

At the lady's bedside I triumphantly waved the fluid balance chart under his nose. 'See?'

'Nobody fills those in, ' he said, walking off.

'What do you mean, 'nobody fills those in'? Of course they fill them in - there's bits filled in here,' I'm now chasing him down the ward as he walks away.

Without even a backwards glance he said, 'no, nobody bothers, they aren't necessary on this ward, sometimes they fill in the urine output or the odd glass of something unusual, but nobody fills them in, she's fine.'

This was RIDICULOUS! Here was a newish junior doctor (he was the February intake, so maybe not as dangerous as the August bunch, but still first year post qualifying) telling me how the Acci works! ME! A SENIOR I!!! Yes, I was proper up myself in those days.

I wasn't about to let THIS lie, so I followed him into the office again.

'We ALWAYS fill them in on the Burns Unit.'

'Yeah, well, we don't fill them in here. HEY!' he shouted to a staff nurse who was walking past, 'do we fill in the fluid balance charts?'

'No, not really,' the UTTER TRAITOR said.

'Well that's really stupid, ' I said, in a proper paddy now. 'What's the point of having them if you aren't going to use them? They just confuse people who work on wards where things are done properly. I think this *not filling things in* is really unprofessional....'

He was LAUGHING at me!

'STOP LAUGHING!!' But I was finding it really hard to not laugh as well, because I realised what a tit I must look.

After that I didn't really see that much of him, mostly only on-calls or lunchtimes just to say the odd word to, as you do. Forgot all about it really.

Until a doctors' mess party that I think he must have been organising, because he wanted to borrow a couple of mix tapes I had. I got there and handed them over to him, and then later in the evening he came over to talk about the music, and we chatted for a bit. Then for some reason we went to his room, not for sexual purposes, that was for sure, we were just sitting on his bed drinking and talking.

Doctor G_ didn't intend to stay a doctor if he could help it. He was writing a series for the BBC, he said. If that worked out, he would pack in the day job and become a full-time writer. Yeah. Me too. He had real hang-ups about his job and all the other people he worked with. He felt like he'd never fitted in as a doctor, because he was from a very working class background and everyone else was so middle class. Now this was something I could really sympathise with, because I often felt the same thing. No one would ever refer to it, but you could see people judge you the minute you opened your mouth. So we were bitching like that and then he started going on about how people were really unhelpful to him, and that I really DIDN'T agree with.

'I've always been nice to you!' And it was true, there were a few times I'd helped him out, we always tried to be helpful to the junior doctors because we knew they had it really tough, and I for one remembered how it had felt when I started.

'Oh, I know YOU have, but the others haven't. Most of the physios and nurses, they're all so up themselves, that's why I've always liked you....'

I didn't really pay attention to the last bit because I was defending my colleagues. 'That's not fair! It's probably because you are sometimes so arrogant and dismissive - I mean, remember the whole fluid chart thingy?'

'Oh yes, that. That's when I first thought how nice you are - how funny you were when you were angry, and when you laughed...'

And he kissed me. I was SHOCKED! I should have seen it coming, but we'd been talking for a long while, and drinking all that while, and the fact that I felt no spark at all had me convinced this was 'friendly chat' territory. So I jumped backwards, sort of stumbled off the bed and said, 'oh, sorry, I erm..., I have to go back downstairs.'

Off I ran like a very fast running thing, the main thought on my mind being did a half-snog that I had not really partaken in count towards the points competition? (see previous link)

Luckily, it did. Unluckily, I always felt a bit awkward around him after that, which I covered up by being super-polite to his face whilst ridiculing him behind his back to the other staff. I really was such a bitch. Yet another thing to be ashamed of.

Long after he'd left the Accident Hospital, a couple of years or so, there was a TV series on BBC called cardiac arrest, written by someone called John MacUre. In the first episode there was an incident where, during a ward round, a junior doctor turned away and threw up out of a window. That actually happened, it was one of those incidents that entered Acci legend; and the whole way the series was written, the sorts of things that happened, it was so Accident Hospital - I just KNEW that Doctor G_ had written it.

Of course, I was right, Doctor G_ is Jed Mercurio (John MacUre was a pseudonym whilst he was still a doctor, I think), although when I knew him he was Ged.

He went on to write 'Bodies', probably the book that best captures how hospitals really are. It became a brilliant TV series. He's done other stuff too, but I haven't watched or read those.

So there we are, a teensy claim to fame - I snogged Ged Mercurio before he had his nose job. DAMN! I'm STILL a bitch!

In Praise of Insomnia

I used to be a good sleeper; in fact through my 20s and 30s there was much photographic evidence of me sleeping still at 2pm, or in a mega-grump following a rude awakening at the unearthly hour of 9am. As I entered my 40s, this began to change - I'd often find myself wakeful at 3am, lying uncomfortably in bed trying not to annoy the ex-husband, trying to will myself back to sleep.

With all the Steve-drama from age 41 onwards (for even when we first met and were happy, there was always drama), things only got worse. Whole nights would disappear in a fug of drifting from a state of greater to lesser anxiety and back again. Things came to a head 18 months into the relationship, the first time he cheated. Yet this was also the time that things changed.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep because I was so upset, so I didn't even try. Whole nights would pass where I would sit up catching up on TV I'd missed, watching DVD box-sets or writing angsty blog-posts and diary entries. It then occurred to me that this was a lot of useful time I was wasting. Here I was lounging around wide-awake all night, whilst during the day I felt too exhausted to do anything other than get through work/housework. Here was on opportunity to do some of those things that were being neglected - starting with the ironing mountain.

So I got into a routine - the first part of the night I would watch TV/DVDs, and as the sun came up (this was summer time) I would make a cup of tea, listen to the dawn chorus, and then start on the housework. There's all sorts of things you can do while the world around you sleeps. Ironing is my absolute favourite, but dusting, polishing, washing down the paintwork, putting on the washing, tidying the 'man drawer', cleaning out the cupboards, mopping the floors - all these are available to you. I also found it was a useful time to do other 'catch-up' things - update my CPD file, check I was on the lowest fuel tariffs, sort out my dad's house insurance, reply to emails, that sort of thing.

As the trauma all died down, so did the wakefulness, but from then on, with a few spells of full nights' sleep, I have been an insomniac. There has been insomnia induced by being woken by noise and feeling an immediate adrenalin rush, then being unable to sleep (because of the stalking). But there is also the 'normal' insomnia even when I am not afeared. I have two distinct types of insomnia - the type where I am awake until about 4am, only falling asleep to the sound of the birds awakening (typing this, I realise this is my summer insomnia), and the type where I am knackered by 10pm or earlier, sleep until 1 or 2am and am then up until 5 or 6 (which is   mostly the winter pattern). My alarm goes off at 7.

It's not something that bothers me, and I am getting to realise that I actually prefer it. When I sleep through for a number of nights (like I have the last three weeks cos of feeling a bit ill with a chest infection), my house turns into a biohazard. When you aren't needing to do housework in the day, you tend to then fill those days with other things - looking back, when my dad was ill/dying, I'd never have cleaned the house if it hadn't been for my insomnia. So now when I do sleep, I feel like I 'have no time' for housework and I resent it eating into my life.

There's also the emotional aspects of it. I love 4am; it has a stillness no other time has. In winter, in the bitter dark (I refuse to put the heating on at night!), there is a feeling that you are the only thing alive. Sitting with my cup of tea, I can open the patio door to complete silence. If there are snowflakes drifting down, the silence deepens and it is even more magical. Then in summer, 4am is when the sky is lightening. It's when the chirruping begins, when life is beginning to stir and it feels like a privilege to watch the world awaken.

4am is also, right now, a damn good time to go slug hunting. The little buggers are out then, they think I'm not around. Imagine their horror when I leap into Kingdom of the Slug (formerly known as the utility room), kitchen roll in hand, and evict them, throwing them outside and hearing the satisfying 'splat' of slug hitting next door's patio.

These last few weeks have been really rubbish - slept right through unless I've been woken by coughing - in which case I can't do anything (am certainly far too weakened for slug-combat) except cough cough cough cough COUGH (boak).

So you can imagine my excitement to be still awake at 3am this morning! The only downside was that this was entirely unexpected, and so instead of using my time constructively I found I had spent all those precious hours mostly on looking at pictures, memes and YouTubes of Grumpy Cat. But hey, YAY! Welcome back insomnia! I've MISSED YOU!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

More Than a Job Part 3 - Living the Dream

I was destined to work at Birmingham Accident Hospital. Fate took a look at me, and took a look at that little gem tucked away on Bath Row, and she knew, she just KNEW that we were meant to be together. Carlsberg doesn't do hospitals, but if it did.... If the Accident Hospital were a man, I would have married it and lived happily ever after, shagging its brains out nightly. I make no bones about it - this is the alpha and the omega of hospitals, there never has and never will be a hospital that can touch it in my eyes.

From the minute I knew I wanted to do physio permanently, I was plotting my escape back up the M6 and into the welcoming arms of the Acci. My first attempt was a dismal failure. A senior II post came up that was rotational through the trauma and orthopaedic hospitals - and one of the 6 month rotations was the the Acci. I went, I interviewed, but inexplicably (oh, ok, all too obviously due to someone being better than me) didn't get the job. I was gutted, especially as my housemate had done my tarot cards and been convinced I was leaving Wales for my dream job in the next few months. She did them again - 'no, you're definitely going, DEFINITELY.'

A month later, the Birmingham Orthopaedic Physio Big Boss phoned me to say that a job had come up and did I want it, 'but I have to warn you it isn't rotational through the hospitals, it's permanent at the Accident Hospital.' Luckily she wasn't in the room, cos her hand really wouldn't have been safe from being bitten off.

The Acci never was for everyone. Most people didn't like it for the same reasons I loved it. It was fast-moving, chaotic, no time to think, SUCH hard work - but SO interesting, so enthralling, what you were doing was the ultimate in worthwhile. Life shrank, because the Accident Hospital was work and play - it was a small hospital, we all were so bound together that we were friends instead of just colleagues, there were loads of parties in the Doctors' mess and the Nurses' Home, we'd go on hospital trips to Alton Towers, Snowdon, Carding Mill Valley. You either got it or you didn't. You either found it confusing, unstructured and frightening, or you loved the excitement and the challenge and the thrill.

I began in February 1988, and at the start I struggled, horribly, and it was especially difficult because another lassie began a couple of weeks or so after me, and she was so much better than I was. The tables had turned form Wales, and now I was the rubbish newbie. Oh, I still loved it, loved the day-to-day work, loved what I was doing: but I couldn't do it fast enough or to a high enough standard. It didn't help that two of the senior staff sort of bullied me - would follow me around criticising everything I did (and not in a constructive manner) or check up on me when I wasn't there, then accuse me of not doing things I had done, or doing things I hadn't done!

Luckily, my immediate senior was really supportive, and with her help I got through it. It didn't really help that at this time I was at a bad place in myself, on a majorly self-destructive downer - drinking too much, too often, being incredibly promiscuous, and generally seeing just how far one person could go without having a nervous breakdown or dying. Of course, I was majorly in denial about this, and remember having a right hump when on a night out someone I actually really liked goes, 'hey, Karen, I've put your song on' and it was this:

"Here you go, way too fast
Don't slow down you're gonna crash.....
.......So what do you want from me?
Got no cure for misery
And if I go around with you
You know that I'll get messed up too"

To be fair, this wasn't anywhere near as mortifying as the time a sort-of-boyfriend Acci doctor requested a DJ dedicate Pet Shop Boys 'Domino Dancing' to me, but it was along the same upsetting lines.  

But things were changing. The two pseudo-bullies left, I found my feet, and I met the nice boy M_  that I horribly cheated on . I was calming down, becoming more focussed on work, and becoming a valued member of the physio department - I was helping other people now rather than the other way around. In 1990 I became the Burns Unit Senior I - and that was where my life became about my work. I wanted to be the best Burns physio ever. I made a comprehensive pack which educated the students on placement in little sections over their three weeks with us. I read everything there was to read on the treatment of burns. I went to watch skin grafts, I went to dressing changes, I went on every ward round and answered questions the junior doctors couldn't answer (and the consultants shamelessly used this as a means to belittle them - basically saying 'oh look, even the physio knows and you don't'). I loved that job. I loved being a senior, I loved setting an example. If switchboard couldn't contact the on-call physio, they contacted me because they knew I wouldn't moan or bitch, I'd just come on in. I loved it! It felt like being on ER!

However, two years in, I knew I was feeling a bit restless. Burns physiotherapy is really quite routine - you do the same things day in, day out. The skill was in motivating people who were in pain and feeling really ill, to do exercises that hurt, or made them feel even more ill. And also in dealing with the sort of people who get burned.

Ordinary people rarely get serious burns. There would be the odd one-off accident, the rare work accident or the very occasional fireman who would get burned; but usually the serious burns, the ones who ended up as in-patients, were people with drug and/or alcohol problems, people who were homeless (you'd be surprised how many were set alight by stupid idiot yobs) or people with serious mental illnesses. This was the challenge, and this became the part of the job I liked the most - the learning how to relate to people that other people found it really hard to deal with. I was always in love with the Accident Hospital; and it was at the Accident Hospital that I began to learn to love my patients.

I remember the day I knew it was time to move on. I was in theatre and the consultant asked one of the junior doctors to correctly adjust the dermatome for harvesting the skin graft. I could see he was baffled, so I whispered, 'hold it up to the light and adjust it so you can just see a sliver of light.' I realised there was nothing left to learn. I'm pretty sure I could have done a skin graft myself - I certainly could tell at dressing changes if they had taken and I was starting to be able to recognise the different smells of different infections. Maggots under dressings in summer no longer made my skin crawl. It was time for new challenges.

Even so, I probably would never have left if the decision hadn't been made to close the Accident Hospital and move the staff first to the General and eventually to the Queen Elizabeth. We fought to stop it, but once it was confirmed and bound to happen, I couldn't stay. Seeing the closure of the Acci would have been like watching the death of a beloved relative. I was the first rat to desert.

I cried on my last day. Walking away, knowing I'd never again walk through those corridors in the still of night, never again feel the heart acceleration and the adrenalin rush that a big burn or a major trauma would bring, would never, ever be phoned again in the middle of the night to come in and help save a life.... I cried. I loved the building, I loved the atmosphere, and I loved the people, the teams, in it. Even now, if I close my eyes, I can smell the physio gym, the changing rooms, the oh-so-distinctive Burns Unit smell that would linger in your nose even when you were long gone from the Unit. I regularly dream I am back there, and I'm sad when I wake up.

Those five years, I lived the dream. I just wish I had been the physio and the person I am now, I'd have been able to give so much more. The Accident Hospital showed me my future, although that future wasn't going to be trauma, or burns.......

Saturday, 2 February 2013

More Than a Job Part 2 - Beginnings

Working as a physio at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr was only meant to be a temporary thing. What I hadn't banked on was that I enjoyed it, and what was even more surprising was that I was good at it. At physio school I'd been so constantly told that I was failing at this, that and the other, and was myself so unmotivated, that I'd thought it was a foregone conclusion that it wasn't the career for me. This was different.

I've always been hardworking (haha, stop laughing, Maddocks clinic lot - filing is not work, it is TORTURE!), and I'm quick to pick things up, so that while I still wasn't the most technically proficient physio, I soon was able to look after my own wards and work on ITU. I'd been lucky in my training in that I'd done two ITU stints, so I knew what to do, and my senior was disproportionately impressed by this. But most impressive of all, I did an on-call within two weeks of starting.

On-call is where you can go home from the hospital and do whatever you want, but you must be available at the end of a phone for the hospital to call you back if anyone needs emergency physio - chest physiotherapy, not emergency ankle strapping or something! In those days there wasn't even an air-call, so it really meant you were quite restricted unless you were within bleep distance of the hospital.

In my second week, the physio who was due to be on-call that night was ill, and with it being such a small department, everyone else happened to have plans. 'That's ok, I'll do it, ' I said.

'But you haven't done the on-call induction day yet.' said the Boss (who had said she would do it if no-one else could - bosses don't usually do on-call).

'But I work on the ITU, I know the patients, and it is most likely to be one of them who will need me. I can do suction, and if I get worried, I'll call you'

Done deal. I wasn't called in - but the fact of me even doing it had impressed people, and it was soon common knowledge that out of the three new starts, I was 'the good one'. It was one of those self-fulfilling prophesy thingies - I became more confident and so I took on harder things, and so people thought I was good etc etc.

I still was naughty though. Not in a way that would hurt anyone, but in a 'doing silly things' way. It was common knowledge that if you were caught being naughty, you would be sent to Aberdare or Mountain Ash or Merthyr General on your next three month rotation. Out of the 18 months I worked in Wales, I spent 6 of them at Aberdare and three at Merthyr General!

What sort of things did I do? Well, a classic one was Dr E_, one of the medical consultants. He was kind and approachable, and he really impressed me by diagnosing a case of Weil's disease on ITU when everyone else was stumped. Here, surely, was my future husband. So I decided to go on his ward rounds. This was an entirely proper thing to do on my own wards but no way should I be doing it on any other physio's wards, but his 'big' ward round was on a day my senior was away doing a degree top-up. I knew the other medical wards pretty well anyway from covering them two afternoons a week and because me and my senior did 'doubles' (patients who need two) together, and she would use her patients for teaching me. Plus most of the ward round was just writing down the odd thing to be done, answering a few questions about progress etc. Thus all went well for a good couple of months. No doubt it could have gone on for the whole of my medical rotation, if ONLY I hadn't been off sick on Dr E_'s 'big' ward round day. Cos he only went and phoned the Boss, didn't he? Asking where 'his' physio was and was she sending anyone else? Shit, meet fan. Karen, meet Aberdare Out-Patients.

It was also on Wales that I did my longest ever working stint. I'd agreed to cover two nights on-call in a row, again due to lack of availability of someone a day before I was on-call anyway. This normally wouldn't be a problem, but we had a child on ITU with cystic fibrosis who needed two-hourly physio, which basically meant you were in the hospital overnight. This meant one of two options - you could sleep on the chairs in the physio staff room (not as uncomfortable as it sounds, more like sleeping on a sofa), or you could sleep in an ITU side-room bed  that was rarely used by patients.

Initially I was going to go for the physio-chair option, but have you ever been in a physio department in the middle of the dark, silent night? SCARY! So instead I 'slept' in the ITU bed. How patients sleep in hospital beds I have no idea. They are sweaty, they make a noise when you move, of plastic creaking, and just as you drop off, someone will come and bang a door or shout an instruction. Plus, you can bet that as soon as I was sleeping, the nurse would come in and say, 'time for C_'s treatment.'

The second night, a couple of the other physios offered to do the on-call for me, cos C_ was still needing two-hourly, but I wanted to see what it was like. So many doctors did these sorts of hours, I wanted to see how far I could go, how much I could do. So I did it. I'm glad I did, it was one of those nights that changes you.

C_ was deteriorating the whole time. Her consultant, Dr M_ was in overnight too. Just before midnight her family were recalled to her bedside, but she struggled on until just after 6, it was a battle against dropping oxygen saturations and horrendous blood gas results, played out against a backdrop of family who knew she was dying but who desperately needed to cling on to hope, to feel something was being done. I wasn't in the room when she died, I was at the nurse's station, but I knew what was happening, and I vividly remember Dr M_ coming out of the room in tears and being led away to the staff room. He was one of your 'typical' consultants - seemingly arrogant and convinced of his own superiority. To see him like that - well, it was one of those times that taught me to be less judgmental about people.

This is something I found at hospitals - it's comforting to be around other staff when it's going tits up. You don't have to talk about it because they get it, they are going through it too, or have been through it another time. Death shakes you, even if you didn't know the person. For it to happen to this little girl, that you've known through various admissions, who's been charming and enchanting, playful, demanding and infuriating in roughly equal measure - for it to happen to someone REAL to you.... That's what happened that night to everyone, to a greater or lesser extent.

By that third day on, I had gone beyond tired. At the end of that day of constantly seeing insects out of the corner of my eye, and missing door handles when I went to open doors, I had been on duty for 56 hours. No-one expected me to go to the work night out that evening, but of course, I so did. At the time doctors worked for way longer - 72 hour stints were common. I have no idea how mistakes weren't more common.

That night, we hadn't got the outcome we wanted, but there would be other nights, other chances.Thing is, after feeling so much a part of something, after feeling like what I did mattered so much, I knew this was what I wanted to do: and I knew where I wanted to do it.

Now I just had to get there.

Friday, 1 February 2013

More Than a Job Part 1 - Getting There

One of my earliest memories is sitting on a wooden clothes airer and watching the moon landings (yes I am THAT old!). Even at that age I was fascinated with space, planets and aliens, and for the longest time I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. It was a bit of a blow to find that astronauts were meant to be physically fit, and have things like degrees in astrophysics - both things that I wasn't likely to achieve (this was in the days when 'everybody knew' I was rubbish at sport). To be fair, the whole glamour of being an astronaut faded somewhat when I properly realised I was going to be spending my time looking like this:

Rather than this:

So instead, I chose a profession where I get to wear lovely trendy clothes like this:


The sad reality is that I wanted to be a doctor really, but I didn't think I was clever enough or dedicated enough. Plus, physios mostly work 9 to 5, and when I trained it was a three year course, so that sounded fine - and maybe I could be a football physio and massage Trevor Brooking or something? Yeah, physio - that sounded just right. So for the last four years of school, that was my aim.

I sucked at being a physio student. 

In those days, it really was a 'twinset and pearls' sort of girl (and I mean girl - there were no facilities for men on the course I did) who became a physio. My dad worked in a factory and I had a Black Country accent - I was a distinct oddity amongst all the 'rich' girls. I later learned they weren't all that rich, but compared to my family, it was a huge gulf. So I very quickly felt that despite being part of the 'trendy' group (purely by accident of room location), I didn't really belong here, with these posh girls, training for a job only posh people did.

The course itself only compounded that feeling - there were regulations on what PANTS we wore for practical lessons even - can you imagine? Now I wouldn't say I was rebellious, but the thing was, unlike everyone else on the course, by the time first year was over, I wasn't sure I wanted to be there, didn't care if I was chucked out, and so didn't bother to follow all the rules.

I'd turn up for work placement in full goth make-up but wearing a physio uniform. I'd grow my nails and wear nail varnish on a Friday. I'd not bother to prepare for lectures or tutorials and would bother even less when I was told off about it. I'd be spotted by the Principal at 6am crossing the central reservation on Smallbrook Queensway with a bottle of Jack Daniels in my hand and a skinny would-be rockstar on my arm.

Certainly by 3rd year I wanted out, and since despite my best lack of effort, I still wasn't being thrown out, I spoke to my parents about dropping out and turning band management into a career (I was managing one at the time, in a haphazard studenty sort of way). Dad said nothing much, Mum went spare and said she'd never speak to me again, and I had no reason to disbelieve her as once, when I accidentally left a cake-tin at another house overnight, she hadn't spoken to me for two weeks, and only gave in cos I caught glandular fever.

Instead, I carried on with the course, but gave no thought or time to it. The day before the last of my finals I was in the recording studio with the Bounty Hunters, drinking JD and Coke while they recorded their eponymous album. Got in at 7am, got changed, went and did exam. There was one question I had no clue about so I handed in a blank piece of paper, to much glaring and tutting from the tutor who collected it. I didn't care.

I went back to Wolverhampton fully expecting to fail. When the day came to find out my results, my fellow students were doubtless on the phone to the physio school at 9am sharp, whilst I was still sleeping off the previous night's debauchery. I phoned in sometime after noon, to be told by Miss Kelly, 'Well, Miss Field, I am sure you will be as surprised as we were to hear that you have passed.'


Everyone else had jobs lined up already, that's the way it used to work (unlike now where there are hundreds of graduates chasing every job). I didn't because I'd thought that failure was a foregone conclusion. Yet the temptation to now make use of my new-found qualification was great. I had a £2000 overdraft (yes, I know, nothing compared to students nowadays) and a boyfriend in Wales. A job came up in Merthyr - I got it. 

Within one month my life course totally changed - but it was only temporary, only til I paid off the overdraft and the boyfriend finished his Polytechnic course. One year and it would be back to the rock and roll lifestyle.

But that was not to be......