Tag Archives: Medical School

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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2006-10 France: Gap year – Val D’Isere Ski Season

In the summer before planning on going to medical school I became ill with mononucleosis and was flat-out wiped out for about six weeks. Despite having done “the needful” for my exam scores I failed to submit a “critically important” occupational health form.  Two consequences developed: The first was having to reapply at University and tripping the barrier between those who were pre-and those were post “top up fees” (I’m talking about the historic top-up fees of 2005/6 era university entrance not the now ridiculous £9000 which is applied per year of tuition at university student). Thus my student debt immediately increased from a mere £6000 not accounting for interest to the figure now which is somewhere in the region of £60,000 as a consequence of this tuition fee loan, my normal student loan and a further professional training alone which I’ve had to garner to limp through the final years of university. The second consequence was having a whole year to decide what to do with.

I decided that I’d like to do a “ski season” and also to go travelling. This before the concept of a “gap Yaar” was too overly tainted. My two plans now seem overly classic but the time seemed to be a sensible option both experientially and financially. After a lengthy summer of desultory reclining in France with the sting of my failure to achieve medical school as a consequence of bureaucracy I jumped the ring round hoops of getting the paperwork and reapplying through UCAS. With the lingering effects of mononucleosis still tainting my existence I trundled into autumn.

I was successful in gaining my first ever proper employ as “the pub chef” at the now extinct pub called the Brewery tap in Wimbledon Village. I worked for a chap called Martin – the publician – one of the cycle of rotating owners at the time if I recall correctly. My job was simple I sat up stairs and awaited the orders come in leavering out sandwiches, jacket potatoes and simple stuff initially before it was joined by a real chef. Aventually we ran Sunday roasts together. It was a good précis my next station. On the back of this I secured a job with “Crystal the Finest”, newly rebranded from former “Simply Ski”, a luxury orientated Department of the Crystal enterprise. I was shipped off to France to work for five months as the sous chef a Chalet Lores.

Before I left I indulged in the purchase of a Canon 20D digital SLR camera. This was my first proper camera of my own and this really started my career as a photographer. I bought one lens in addition to the kit lens (18-55mm) a 70 to 300 mm. Altogether I spent nearly £1500 on this first foray into photography. These days the 20 these megapixel value can be found in some of the top and smartphones! Times have certainly changed ladies and gentlemen. Nevertheless it was an astonishing camera for the time.

Arriving in France we underwent training from week in Courchevel before a week of pre-season and then season proper. The experience was initially one of the most intense things I’ve ever done in my life. It was physically and emotionally exhausting….but as time wore on, as my skin grew thicker and my skills increased I began to get a flavour of the season. Skiing every day, drinking every evening and having at least one day week was by no means a bad lifestyle. Being paid albeit a weird minimum wage compensated for food and board (I think it was something like £120 a week) was really a bonus. Furthermore as time wore on and as we ran the show more and more efficiently my head chef and I eventually were able to work in such a way that we could afford ourselves a one-on-one off arrangement.

In total there were six of us working. My head chef and me, three Chalet hosts and a barman… We served five course meals six nights a week to around 30 guests who stayed at the hotel and rotated weekly. Change over days were Saturdays… Tiring and fraught with risk of incoming guests travel delays – leaving us to serve dinner well into the night. Days off were Wednesdays – invariably preceded by a heavy night of drinking and partying before repose. On a rota we were also assigned to cover one day per week stay in the hotel during daylight hours to do cleaning and suchlike.

Thus a typical day ran something along these lines: Wake at 6:30 to begin preparing and cooking breakfast for the guests ready for 8:00. Serving and then dealing with the fallout from breakfast and preparing urgent tasks of the evening’s meal (shopping, prep work and suchlike) and cooking and preparing afternoon tea (a cake everyday), before heading out to the slopes at around c. 11 o’clock. After three or four hours of runaround it would be time to come home to start leaving prep at around four o’clock. Dinner took place at 19:30 and would normally be wrapped up by about 23:00…at which stage mood we would head to the pub for an hour or two before turning around in the snow and resetting the clock for the morrow…..Looking at the schedule now I can’t believe how much we used to drink and how little we used to sleep. I can only think how much my biological clock was accelerated during this period, not to mention the aggressive skiing without suncream in the spring months!

My ski season was a seminal or perhaps formative experience in terms of working hard and really it was my first proper job. I’m glad experience and it was a genuine privilege to be allowed ski for five months in one of the finest results of the world, Val D’Isere. I have many fun stories and also several poignant and painful memories of growing up and of being disappointed.

These days I don’t cook very much but the skills learned during his five months set me right for a lifetime of competence in the kitchen. It certainly one of those incredibly useful life skills that I’m grateful to have been able to master and such a convincing fashion.

As regards the photos…. I’ll try to dissect them into smaller stories at some later stage but for now please enjoy selection of my favourites from the season.