2013-03 Four days off: two crazy parties, musings on the mess, two days of reclusive reparations, archiving and nostalgia.

Before I begin this post properly i’d like to celebrate one of my colleagues greatest life achievements (surely!)….namely becoming a bona fide nationally published author in nothing other than the Daily Mail: please click on the link to see incredibly stimulating piece of journalism. We joked the other day that it probably has a wider readership then any of the high attaining journals that we doctors try to get our work into. In even has an independent crit-o-meter something that our “open” journals lack. Congratulations my friend.

On a more serious note I would also Like to celebrate a tasty album released by my friend from Dutch-land Harm Coolen and his esteemed colleague Merg (Merg & H as so they’re know). Take a listen on Soundclound – if you like it… think about supporting their work. Half Age EP: THE ALBUM.

So to begin:

Here in the UK we have had an early Easter bank holiday weekend. This means four days off in a row, a rare occurrence I think you’ll agree. Work finished on Thursday in a mad frenetic flurry – if you can imagine trying to translate the safety moving forward of whole host of people who you know intimately to be tentatively unwell across the great divide of four uncertain days…and trying to effect this through an archaic handover system: scraps of paper?! I think we should perhaps adopt more modern methods.Weval

Closing with work on Thursday was our “mess party”. The concept of a mess I guess dates back its original military derivation – “the officers mess” – though if anyone would care to research (Google) it am sure they’d find some more subtle variant in the origins of hospital Messes. Irrespective, these days a “Doctors mess” in most applications functions to support the social lives of doctors working at a given hospital. There is a physical place called the “Doctors mess” – typically a dank and slightly dated room with old sofas and ageing TV propped up in the corner – where you can escape from the maelstrom of the hospital and meet with a few colleagues to deconstruct events on the wards. This space is typically run by a committee of junior doctors who are haphazardly appointed at some stage at the start of the year. In addition to upkeep of these glorious spaces they are also responsible for dispensing with the monies gathered from a sliver of each doctors pay cheque each month – normally in the form of a blowout party each month.

Messes vary in their degree of sophistication – here in Woolwich we have relatively nice facilities including a gym and two “mess” spaces as well as one of the most enviable views across London that I’ve ever seen. Other places such as the Royal free include “advanced” provisions such as a standing canteen and in times gone by a bar as well. Messes are in varying degrees supported by their home institutions hospitals with provision of foodstuffs, cleaning and the like.

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View from the Doctors Mess

Anyway onto the interesting bit. This Thursday we went out for a night out, celebrating the departure of one of our locally (possibly nationally he revealed) famous medical registrars. We sent him off in style with a trip to the famous “North Pole South Pole” bar in Greenwich. There something about working in Woolwich which drives one to nights like this – a hellbent and merciless release from the stresses and strains of work. It was neither glamorous nor glorious but hit the nail right were needed to be hit: obliquely somewhere along the side bending it distorting into horrible misconfiguration of what it should be and scuppering all those involved in the misadventure for at least 24 hours aftewards. Well, at least everyone had fun (apparently). Our senior colleague is heading off with all certainty to a better place. For my part it’s been a pleasure working with him. I wish him well and will remember with great fondness his fantastic jumpers, razored tongue and acute clinical acumen.

Friday night saw me heading out to the photography for DUMP’s 5th night. This month was an genuinely imaginative and ambitious concept – “bring your own light” or as they cleverly called it “Light Enters Darkness”…Thus an LED party, the only lights were to be those that people had brought with them. I’m not talking about household lighting here but rather the kind of funky shirts which arose in the techno era, pulsing in time to the music. In the end it worked really well although I must admit I was initially worried! Great crowd again and two delicious DJ sets took us through till 3 in the morning before the party was “shut down”. I clambered on after here to another party and a 5:30am meal (trying to play catch up and also paying from my addled bodyclock from the previous night adventure) – before taxing home in the cool grey dawn at 6am. I’ll drop some of the photos on a later posts – look out for the next event if you’re keen and also the film when we make it over the next week or so. From a technical perspective it was bloody challenging to get anything half decent in such environs!

Playing with Light: DUMP 5 LED
Playing with Light: DUMP 5 LED

As regards the rest of the weekend my folks family are all out in France so I’ve holed down in my flat to get on with some of the vast amount of backlog photo work I have from the last six years, including my lengthy trawl through 8000 images from India. It’s strange leafing through moments from through for years previous…. The physical changes you notice and your retrospective analysis of events have gone by. Relationship spinning on, places you’ve been…and even people dieing. I think film will have a much more powerful impact on me in the years to come… although the archive for this is far more intermittent. Nevertheless already the impact started to come – a great family friend who recently passed away appears in some footage I was working on recently… It’s strange meeting his ghost but pleasing still to hear his voice again with its wise words as we muse over a glass of wine.

I think it will be strange for those born in these years for them to reflect that their forebears didn’t have a whole wealth of digital accessory material to accompany their lives. Twitter, Facebook and photography and film now accessible at the flippant flip of the switch from phone in your pocket…. I remember the days on which I used to write letters. It seems so strange and foreign to me now as a dictate using a microphone. I am 110% behind technological progress but going over old ground (mild digital photo collection) triggers a really intense nostalgia of these more “naive” times. Are we actually less connected to reality?

I guess it really does compound my obsessive front-back approach to things. Constantly archiving means that you are necessarily missing out on new events that unfold. Take today for instance where I spent the whole day away working on moments entirely from the past! Beyond photos and film have also started on paperwork which is entirely less exciting but functionally very helpful – living forwards. Perhaps unenviably (is this a word?) for a 25-year-old I’m already availed of how to do accounts and bookkeeping to a reasonably cruddy proficiency….And therefore intensely aware of the value of keeping frustrating scraps of paper. Scanning them using my sexy duplex scanner feeds both my desire to archive and also the great task that lies ahead when the April curtain falls down to mark the end of the next financial year. Chaos no longer reign supreme! (Replaced instead with hours of mindless insertion of sheets and computer markup). Gone are the boxes however – physical clutter has taken a bow – to what reality disconnecting expense though?

It seems that there are a lot of people after me at the moment. What is it about life that there’s always things that have to be done yesterday? One of these days, of my cave and start drinking in life again. But looking at whether a side which is still pitiful and wintry I think I’ll hold off for just a few more days yet. For the Life of me I cannot seem to leave this place – between the whiskey and the wine and the entrancing films I keep rolling on my second screen with entrancing soundtracks

Adieu for now…

2013-03 London Snow in March: the Blog Restart

Welcome back to the blog. It’s been almost a year since I wrote anything significant on this page. I put up a couple of videos just to show that I was still alive beyond the realm of Facebook where my most prolific online presence spouts out… but other than that the lines were silent. I figured from here on out that this blog should be fewer words and more pictures as I’d always intended for it to be. Although this means less of listening to my own voice (I dictate the blog).

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The great yawning gap between this and the last post has taken me through finals, the summer afterwards (the recovery) and into my first two rotations as a junior doctor. I work at the most esteemed Queen Elizabeth hospital Woolwich. It’s an interesting place to work and has been an excellent proving ground for my first year. The work is generally pretty tiring and stressful – demands on our time are really quite intense. I can’t of course complain when I think of how hard my forebears worked (100 hour on calls) and there certainly a great deal more protection of our time than previously… There are different stresses and strains for our generation not least of which the dreaded “portfolio” and the constant demands on throughput and background drone of “what about your CV what about your CV” leaves you often exhausted and demoralised at the end of the day when you leave late again. One thing is certain in a place like Woolwich the concept of a 48-hour restricted working week is incompatable with safe and sensible service provision. Pure fantasy!

Anyway more musings on being a doctor later…I’d like to celebrate the recent successes of my friends blogs. Ali M who mainly writes about her fanatical running, Matthew H who started a very successful blog about idiosyncratic places to eat and drink in London “The LIST”, Cassandra Coburn scientist of no ill repute whose debut article was a well levelled entry about her expert area of ageing and Max I who holds the enviable status as most-lived-abroad-in-most-number-of-countries (Currently Mexico) amongst our close friends.

I’ve also refabricated my website somewhat – have a look if you’re interested – and have created a facebook page which you can “like” if you enjoy my photos and films (it currently has NOTHING in it however!).

Finally…for those of you who have been hunting me down this is something of hello…. And yes I know you’re waiting. In the meantime please enjoy some of my favourite photos of the views from the Mess tower-rise overlooking the common to the south and the city to the north.

2013-03 DUMP 5: Light Enters Darkness (L.E.D)

I realise that this in another post… but I had a draft copy of this post so I thought I’d throw it  together once again.

The rule for this party was that the revellers brought their own light. LED or LIGHT ENTERS DARKNESS….  An incredible challenge to photograph but as you can see from the results must’ve got lucky with one or two of the shots! Actually the darkness was so tricky that together with the couple of drinks I’d (it was 2am in the morning) I almost shattered half of my equipment tripping over various pieces. The DUMP Team knocked together a video from the Shots I made on the side. Enjoy!

2012: D.U.M.P. Halloween

The Doctors Underground Mess Project (D.U.M.P.) project is a monthly party organised in London as a get-together for Junior doctors et al. Growing in popularity I’ve had the great opportunity to stage in as a photographer at a couple of their events. The Halloween event was exceptional for the dedicated costume turnouts from the partygoers. Here are a selection of my photos of the evening. They made a film which you can check out. Tickets are available on their website for the next event and their Facebook Page tracks the updates leading up to the announcement of each secret location. Partying par excellence! Long may it continue.

2012-04 Back to Blighty: Basildon University Hospital

Dear friends,

It is been almost a month since last I wrote. During this time I have completed my tasks in Nepal, have visited the secret Kingdom of Bhutan and have moved back to UK right back into the thick of it in glorious Basildon, Essex. Right now as I look out of my window in my hospital accommodation the looming roof of one of the service buildings of the hospital is beside me looking like something out of Star Wars and naturally, because I’m back in England, it is also raining. Actually we have had really fantastic weather recently which has been all the more difficult to bear than rain because of the fact that all my waking hours these days are spent in the irresistible urge to study. I say irresistible but what I really mean is desperate – as the calculations have had it that for all possible dimensions of waking hours that are left until my first exam only amount to a mere 780 hours. This my friends is not long… However it is long enough I feel to get the main point across – and one would hope after six years at this unrelenting game I might finally be able to reach the point to call myself a medical bachelor and bachelor of surgery, MBBS, or if you like Doctor… In these mere months.

Star Wars at Basildon?
Room with a view: Hospital Utilities at Basildon

I will of course extend my final advice that none of you should get sick in around London this summer as you could well see me on the other side.

I have been surprised to see the views of my blog still continuing to rumble over. In total I have had now almost 2000 views. WordPress is fantastic in the fact that it gives you all sorts of wonderful statistics to confuse you with regards to your blog. A recent thing which I noticed was that I could observe the breakdown of views by country. I recognised a large majority of my referrals from United Kingdom but was very surprised to see the odd view from the the strangest of countries, people who obviously have stumbled across my blog from places as far-flung as Brunei, Burkina Faso and Iceland… As well as a healthy slice of people from the United States and Canada as well as a few recognitions by can subscribe to friends of mine scattered across the world. I would just like to say thank you for all of those of you who have visited my blog over the time and once again hope that it is given you some insight into the work I did in Nepal. Furthermore if you are from one of these “rare countries” which I profess I’ve never visited (although I would desperately like to) be fascinated to hear we think of my writings and photos and would be happy to read about anything you could describe about your locations.

Coming back has been a bit of a shock to the system with regards to my bank account. Although I didn’t suffer any discomfort in Nepal with regards to money I did spend everything that I owned (I don’t profess to have any savings but what money was in my counts from work and loans I have used completely ). So having comeback to an empty bank account to the most expensive cities to live in a world has been rather more uncomfortable. Furthermore my move to Essex has meant a great deal of journeying across London which in itself is a rather expensive sport. I’m glad to say that next week I get some money into my account (although almost immediately it will leave my account as I need to pay back those I’ve borrowed from/not played in progressive deficits over time to counterbalance this immediate deficit)… But at least it will provide some degree of buffering for the senseless mental beating I’m going to be offering myself each day in these coming months. From you my readers… any suggestions for ways to best support my mental status during these next two months are very much welcome.

London tube: it's great to be back from Nepal
One of the great things about being back is the transport system… I’ve missed the good old tube!

Some people have called for the culminating chapter on Nepal. In the event, being back in the big smoke of Kathmandu I simply got too wrapped up with my tasks in those final weeks to get any more consistent reflection done. With some space and also now some directed reflection being asked in medical school (I’ve had to hand in my elective report as well as my students selected component report detailing my work in Kathmandu and Janakpur respectively – for which I have actually created a website and I will post on request if any of you are interested in reading the official reports on the situations), I should hopefully have the chance to give over some of the more interesting stories of my final month in Nepal. I found that being back in the city was far more chaotic than my ordered regimental lifestyle (even doing the film) that I had in Janakpur. Also for all of you who are interested in the relativities of economics my return to Kathmandu lefty smarting at the cost of things… However this has been quite blown out of the water by my return to London where unfortunately I have found it difficult to relinquish the penchant I developed in Nepal for taking taxis. I have been stung on several occasions by the extraordinary cost of personal motorised transport in around the capital… And I’m not even talking about long journeys here!

Onwards from here I will be reporting from time to time, mostly in a pensive procrastinative or reflective mood as I progress to the next eight weeks of the roundups towards medical finals at UCL. Hopefully it can serve as some kind of catharsis for this process. And to you my readers provide something of an insight into the terminal stages of medical student development in the United Kingdom. One thing is for certain it is going to be a seriously traumatic.

That’s all for today …so I wish you all the best. Please enjoy these small snippet photos of my current situation at Basildon Hospital in both good and bad weather that epitomises spring in the United Kingdom. Drip drip drop little April showers…. (and boom large ominous thunderheads)

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2012-03 Kathmandu nights: Too many ideas, Steak & Slides and Holi on the Horizon.

It’s 3:20am in the morning and I am up writing e-mails at my desk. I decided to try and get an early night in fact but sank into an early coma of sleep for about 1 hour only to rise with my head buzzing full of ideas. So…I decided instead to power on through and take an early nap tomorrow afternoon. You may think I’m crazy but with the little sleep I get anyway this is not such a deprivation for me…. In any case my mind is too full of ideas at the moment to allow me quiescent slumber. It seems these days that the more time I spend in Kathmandu the more ideas are coming to me about what would be a good thing to do in the future in so many different domains. The trouble with these is the conceptions on how actually they would be able to be created and also straightforward limitations on my time that all these ideas mushrooming inside my already crowded headspace generates. Already here in Kathmandu I have many many projects still to finish. It is for this that I am keen to avoid the rest of the human race for large portions of the day… things just seem to start happening as soon as I get into social situations and within 5minutes another potential project has surfaced. There is a serious risk that I could spread myself so thin as to become non-existent. You might laugh at me saying this but those of you who know me well know that this is really a true possibility. In any case the important point is that there are some very exciting ventures for the future here in Nepal and I should wish to focus on those which really are important in achieving the ultimate goals. Requires concentration and exercising the use of the word “no”.

Kanti children's Hospital
My commitments at both Kanti, MIRA and many others will consume all of my time until I leave the country in 17 days.

Sorry to be cryptic for now but hopefully in time things will come a bit clearer. Besides it is 3:30 in the morning so apologies if I am not fully lucid. Meanwhile my clinical studies are ticking along somehow, partly it is headspace & partly it is forming a commitment to sitting down to a couple hours each day… but now the ball has started rolling things have become a little easier…Overall I really have to worked my butt off until I leave Kathmandu if I’m going to get this long list finished. But If I do things have real the potential to be quite spectacular in the future.

In other news, I attended an incredibly interesting slideshow presentation of photos and stories of the Everest region this evening as well as one of the great Pujan’s legendary Hotel Courtyard steak dinners. It really was quite the sophisticated evening – and I can be proud of myself in not drinking also. The first night of my abstinence until June 16th. I will try to be honest on updates in this regard!

Boots were made for walking
There is a reason I brought hiking boots to the country…

Anyway – the gentleman giving the presentation this evening, Chris, is an expatriate who has lived in Nepal on and off for 28 years and makes a living as a trekking guide, photographer and writer. His slides consisted of the photographs he has taken over his long stint in Nepal. Accompanied with these crystalline images his speech was commanding, informative and grandiose… I found that the oration accompanied by these stunning images of mountains really set my mind to a loftier plane in consideration of these high-climes… There is something about the Himalayas that is so epically resplendent. Chris’ presentation couldn’t fail to capture this but what I found most impressive was the way he conveyed the human side of life in the Himalayas which is so often lost amidst the grandeur of the peaks. I envy his ability to have such a lengthy insight into the country and also having been here in times when tourism was not so rife and things were far more virgin than they are now. I’m sure a future me will reflect on my visits to certain places in the world and think just in the same fashion “oh how things have changed!”, but I believe also that as development reaches a certain point there undergoes a certain transition at which traditional culture moves aside to a large extent. These changes have been led largely by increases in mountaineering tourism in the Himalayas but in a wider sense communications and the spread and development of new technologies affects a wider change across the face of the country. Thus whilst many of the essential components of the culture of these regions is maintained a wholly new concept is evolving around the these new intrusions in such a way as to change the face of many hundreds of years of societal development within a generation or less. Overall the presentation was an acute insight into what I’m missing down here in the valley. I really must at least get to one viewpoint before I leave! — Even if it means running up the nearest peak as to complete at least one “trek” before I leave… Watch this space.

Steak's not typically on the menu here in Nepal
The Cow is very much sacred here so good quality beef is extremely hard to find.

As regards the steak, I write with genuine sincerity when I say that on the two happy occasions that I have enjoyed this experience it really does rank amongst one of the finest that I have experienced in my entire life. Pujan, Michelle and their wonderful staff must receive some kind of award for mustering such consistently good food show the courtyard. I hail the Dal Bhatt which I have ordered on several occasions to my room as absolutely delicious (and this is coming from someone who has this as a long staple in Janakpur) and the Steaks…the steaks are amongst the very finest across the whole of Asia. Fact. You might wish to lable me a fool simply because I crave a meat which is not widely available here in Nepal (most people here are Hindu after all – (and to be absolutely explicit the cow is one of the most sacred animals in the Hindu religion)), but discussions with a great number of people who have experienced this culinary delicacy really do add weight to my statements. All are agreed on the above and would, I’m sure, willingly swear blind. Altogether they are just out of this world and certainly have to be tasted to be believed….but steaks aside If you ever get the chance to visit Nepal and are looking for “the perfect place to stay” I cannot more thoroughly recommend the Hotel Courtyard. The steaks of course, play some small part in my suggestion here but more widely I have never felt more at ease in a place. The gamut of the clinment, curiosity and intrigue. There is never a dull moment (partly why I choose to keep myself away – distraction factor) but there in the same breath there exists an enduring sense of calm and serenity about the place, not to mention Chic. Something of the air of the place here so strongly reminds me of ….’s “In the mood for Love”. I am certainly going to miss it here when I head back to the maelstrom of clamour and chaos that is my existence in London.

Pujan the Wizard
Pujan, here cooking up a magical night outside by the fire, makes some of the best steaks in the world – I’d swear that he imports them from some other heavenly plane of existence.

As a final thought, Holi is happening on Wednesday. Of course it will be a national holiday and therefore another day off…. and I think I should choose this day wisely as a chance to really engage with the local culture rather than sitting in my room. What this directly means is that the next 48 hours are going to be incredibly work filled but hopefully on Wednesday I can take some respite in a bit of fun and games. If you’ve every heard of this more famous of Hindu festivals you’ll be aware of the need to throw at your fellow man coloured paints and perfume. Whole streets descend into coloured chaos. This has a great photographic as well purely perceptual pleasure in its potential form (providing I and my camera survives).

Hotel Courtyard Bar
…the bar lit up during load shedding

I will of course find more detailed information about this (hopefully through empirical experience ) but as far as I understand it this “festival of colours” hails the arrival of spring as well as referring backwards to various aspects of the Hindu mythology. The story goes, and I’m summarising from Wikipedia here, that Hiranyakashipu a great Demon King – who could not die – kept trying to kill off his son, Prahlada, who was enamoured of the great Lord Vishnu, rather than worshipping his Demonic Dad as he was supposed to do. Ultimately Hiranyakashipu tried one too many times and in his final attempt, ordering his son to climb onto a pyre which was set burning in the lap of his demon sister Holika in order to get the deed done, his plan backfired (literally). In the event it was Holika not Prahlada that burned to death and thus everybody cheered and celebrated the wicked sister’s burning with a brand new festival – Holi… all good and proper but the celebratory aspects referring to spring seem to make a bit more sense to me and happily in many places the festival is also associated with harvest and positive seasonal prospect variations. It is certainly a festival which I become aware of over the years, not least because of the paint stains which are left in the UCL Quad when British Hindus (and non-Hindus granted) celebrate this event so it will be a great pleasure to see at first hand here in Nepal.

Reports as soon as I can muster after Wednesday’s events then!

2012-03 What’s it all about?

Part of the purpose of this blog is to re-articulate some of the incredible journeys that I have taken in my time. Slowly but surely I aim to over the course of the next few years to fill in the blanks of the journeys that I’ve taken, together with the photos. Looking back with some perspective now on these adventures hopefully become a little “less stuck in the mud” than I find myself whilst contemporaneously trying to document events.

Mt Fuji with Kenzo Ejiri and Seb Roberts
Kenzo and Seb: Climbing Mt Fuji in the night to catch the dawn one of the many incredible experiences I’ve had in my time.

I recall quite well discussing with Marthe Taillefer, the owner of Chalet Lores in Val D’Isere (the chalet where I worked for five months as a chef during my gap year) and photographer of many years, saying to me that I should select my best hundred photos out of 5000 that I took over the course of the season. At the time I thought that this would be quite a remarkable challenge as I had so many to look through – now I wonder if I wouldn’t even choose 10 to try and articulate this experience. For me the photographic record provides hooks on which to account to myself the particulars of the situation – but it can also change what you would recall – forcing the recollection of some and not other aspects…Nevertheless part of the process of taking photos reflects the engagement of your visual memory. Photos aside the active process one engages whilst taking photos gives a wealth of memories which extend beyond the photos internally – growing together with other perceptual ghosts of smell and sound and touch … Thus united time gives further evolution and perspective on these memories. Memories which were initially striking fade into a notsalgic melange such that you’re left with senses and perceptions which may or may not be nessicarily be a true refection of what you actually experienced. Unpleasant may change to memories change to comedic ones – people you met who seemed important fade away and are replaced with curious resurfacings of the brief glimpse of a person who caught your eye only for a second.

Bowling for Tamsin's birthday
Bowling on Tamsin’s birthday – I think I got one of the lowest scores ever…something which I’d quite forgotten about but remember now with fondness.

The falability of memory makes photos an interesting means of both preserving but also reanalysing and reinterpreting the past. So for me the process of reproducing these photos and stories is both externally and internally orientated. On the one hand I want to share it with you all these images and experiences and on the other I wish to process and mull over them as I do so – savouring in the memories and evolving them all the same.