06 July, 2011

Moving on

Regular readers of this blog - that's all five of you - might remember The Great Job Move of 2010, when I changed jobs and defected to the Hospital Next Door. Well, it's been just over a year and it's time to move again.

I'm quite excited but ever so slightly petrified about this one, because it will be the first time in 25 years - yes, you read that correctly - that I will not be working in a hospital. My new role will see me working for an educational institution, a shiny office setting where people wear normal clothes and don't have to let someone know when they're going to the toilet. A place where lunch breaks can last for more than 29 minutes. A strange, new world.

I love hospitals. I feel at home in them. I understand the language. I know how things work. I know what hides behind doors, what things are kept under lock and key. I can work the equipment, silence those annoying alarms, make the backrest on the bed come out. I can make a bed in mere minutes. I can cast my eye over a clinical situation, assess it, prioritise the necessary actions, delegate, supervise and evaluate. I can do stuff, me. But I do that stuff in a hospital, my natural environment. It's been my only constant since I was nineteen years of age and now I'm leaving home.

And my patients. How can I leave them? It's been my privilege to care for people for so many years. I've been there for people when they're lonely, in pain, frightened, critically ill. I've delivered babies who came before their time. I've held the hand of the dying and sat with them as they took their last breath. I've wiped bums, washed faces, backs, feet, changed nighties and pyjamas, given injections, pushed wheelchairs, sat and listened, made thousands and thousands of cups of tea, looked after scared student nurses, looked after scared staff nurses, scared doctors, gone toe to toe with aggressive relatives, cried, laughed, laughed, cried and then laughed some more.

It's been hard and there were times when it nearly broke me. The pay isn't the best. The perks are practically non existent. But it's been my life for almost 25 years. Leaving it is going to break my heart.

Still, people have said some very nice things to me since I resigned. My current students are sad to see me go. My new graduate nurse is mildly horrified that I'm leaving. I'm mildy horrified for her.

So, that's it. Now it'll be normal clothes and a classroom, telling people what's out there. I'm not sure if I'll last but there's only one way to find out.

01 June, 2011

The Book

I feel for my poor father. An avid sportsman, he had two children who showed minimal interest in any outdoor sports at all. I can still recall his frustration on warm summers days, when, keen to get out in the garden with a bat and ball he would attempt to evict his sluglike offspring from whichever nook or hiding place we had secreted ourselves. My brother would often join in with a game of cricket or some throw and catch before scuttling back to his Airfix models but I would resolutely refuse. It's hard to read in direct sunlight.

I've always been a bookworm. My mother taught me to read before I went to school. I devoured words. I would read the labels on shampoo bottles in the bath. I read every book in the school library before the 4th year. I read the childrens books at the local library and when I'd read all the ones I liked I moved into the grown up section. I have shelves full of books. Boxes full of books. A personalised signed Pratchett. I have a Kindle. I love reading, me.

I've read more books than I can count but if you asked me to pick a favourite I could do it in a heartbeat. It's not a highbrow masterpiece. It's not a Booker prize winner. It's a childrens book.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl sticks in my memory as being the most amazing book of my entire childhood. I doubt it will ever be replaced in my affections by any other. It conjured up vivid images in my imagination of little Charlie Bucket, his impoverished but proud family and most importantly of all, that river of chocolate.

I won't bore you all with the details as I'm sure you've all read it. (What? You haven't? Get thee to a bookshop!) Perhaps it was my sweet tooth that made me love it with such a passion but all I know is that Roald Dahl filled my head with pictures. It was more than just pictures, though. It was sounds and smells, imaginary places, magical little people, a glass elevator, and oh yes, a river of chocolate. Beautiful pictures, imaginary scents, grotesque baddies, a hero and his grandfather, a peculiar confectioner and a happy ending to boot.

Fast forward to 2011 and I'm having a conversation with my friends six year old son. He's a nice little boy, not too grubby and well behaved. We have funny little conversations which I generally enjoy, well, apart from the one where he told me that the reason I was so short was that I ate too many Sometimes Foods. I still think his mother was behind it. Anyhoo. We were having a nice little chat about books one day and I told him about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He wanted to know more and so I downloaded a free sample to my Kindle before my next babysitting venture. Once the parents had gone out and the younger brother was safely tucked into bed, I began to read.

It's a lovely thing, reading to children. They go into a trancelike state. They sit still and pay attention. They are transported to another place. Their eyes might be staring at the words on the page but you know they're not reading them. And so it was with little Ted. By the end of the first chapter he was snuggled in so close that I could feel his breathing against my arm. I knew that the words I was reading out loud were filtering into his ears and sloshing around inside his mind. I knew he could see Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina squashed into the bed. I knew that in his minds eye he could see Prince Pondicherry in his chocolate palace. Charlie Bucket was alive inside someone elses head.

Little Ted was disappointed when the free sample ended and wanted to know what happened to Charlie Bucket. I went home the next day and visited www.bookdepository.co.uk. Within 10 minutes a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been purchased and sent to a little boy.

About a week later I received a 'phone call. "Thank you for my book. It came today."
"You're welcome," I replied. "Did I tell you that it's my most favourite book in the whole wide world?"

"Yep," said Ted. "I'm going to get Mummy to read it to me tonight. Thank you so much. I love it."

People might think it's just a book. It cost less than ten dollars. But it's so much more than just a book. It's an introduction to the power of imagination. It's the front door to a world of magic and make believe, of little people, of gruesome children and their gruesome parents. It's about edible blades of grass and a river of chocolate.

It's the best gift I've ever given.

So, what's your book?

20 April, 2011

Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith

I wanted my next blog post to be a cheerful one, really, I did. I'd already started one about my afternoon at the Sydney Opera House with Sir Pterry Pratchett. It was going to be all cheerful and uplifting. Honest.

This morning I logged on to my favourite Doctor Who forum (oh come on, we all know I'm a geek) and read the terrible and shocking news that Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who had played Sarah Jane Smith, had passed away at the age of 63. Members of the forum were in shock. I was one of them. I immediately sent a text to my cousin. I updated my Facebook status. I posted on the forum. I cried. Twice.

Why is it that we feel this way about people that we've never met? We develop such intense and real attachments to characters - and that's what they are, not people, per se - that we genuinely mourn their passing when we've never met the people themselves. For me, with Elisabeth and Nicholas Courtney, I think it's because they are intrinsically linked with my childhood which was a happy time for me, all things considered. Sarah Jane Smith was an excellent role model for little girls in the 70s. She might have screamed a lot (she certainly screamed and fell over too much in Brain of Morbius) but even though she was afraid she stood her ground and did what needed to be done. She took on aliens. She faced off with Davros. She did battle alongside Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, David Tennant and Matt Smith. A veteran visitor to the TARDIS, she also appeared in The Five Doctors where she met the first, second and fifth Doctor. Three decades of teaching little girls that they could do anything.

A few years ago I 'met' Sarah Jane again when she appeared alongside David Tennant in an episode called 'School Reunion.' I cried during that episode when K9, the brave tin robot dog, sacrificed himself to save the others. I'd never had a dog as a child and watching that episode as an adult, I wept as 'my' dog died.

I'm so terribly sad about Elisabeth's passing. Even though I never met her and only really knew her as Sarah Jane I'm pretty sure she was a warm, funny, delightful human being. Elisabeth Sladen leaves a husband, daughter, and millions of fans all over the world.

24 February, 2011

Five rounds rapid

It's hard to pinpoint when your childhood ends and adulthood begins. One minute you're throwing your dolls out of trees on makeshift parachutes and the next you're wearing cherry flavoured lip gloss and mooning over a boy who doesn't know your name. One second later and you've got a mortgage, a credit card and a large collection of handbags, plus a few grey hairs thrown in for good measure.

But every now and then something takes you out of your grown up life and back to your younger days with a sudden jolt. A memory or a moment catches you unawares and reminds you that there was a time when monsters existed and the safest place was behind the settee.

I had one of those moments yesterday. Nicholas Courtney passed away yesterday at the age of 81 and he took another little piece of my childhood with him. Quite a big bit, actually. For the children of the Seventies Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was as synonymous with Doctor Who as the TARDIS or even the Doctor himself. The Brig, as he was affectionately known, led UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) and thanks to the Doctor each time the UK hosted strange alien life forms the Brig was there to greet them with a mixture of bemusement and exasperation. Often he tried to shoot them. It wasn't always the most successful approach to defending the planet but he remained steadfast and unflappable as the stood alongside the Doctor - well, lots of them, actually - and faced danger head on, armed with his army issue pistol and his marvellously rich voice. With his calm demeanour, no nonsense approach, smart uniform and magnificent moustache, the Brig was the very epitome of a hero.

Yesterday, I found out that my childhood hero was no longer with us and I'm still a bit tearful today. I hadn't realised how much I loved The Brig. Jon Pertwee was my doctor but perhaps if I'm honest I loved The Brig more than any Doctor. He made it safe to come out from behind the settee on a Saturday night.

RIP Nick. Thank you for everything. Splendid fellow.