Snakes & Ladders in the medical sense

 

I have just returned from a routine visit to the GP. She was a young, pleasant public-school type person who I have never met before, and given her locum status and imminent maternity leave, shall probably never see again. And there you have it, a present day meeting with a doctor takes 3 weeks to organise and when you meet her it’s short sharp and a one off. Health issues cannot resolved with such brief interventions, but the system can pretend.doctor

To become a GP she would I guess, have been a brilliant student. This brilliance coupled with her smile and ‘I’m listening’ tilt of the head culled from Lesson One of ‘Body Language in times of conflict’ demonstrated a kind of rudimentary awareness, but where she really excelled was with the speed and efficiency with which she brushed me off and sent me away empty handed.

I had a list of things to go through and yet none of them were dealt with in the way that was satisfactory.

Allow me to share my below the brain and above the belt issues.

  1. Shallow breathing. I am fitter than I’ve ever been. I run 5km once a week on top of the 2 x 2km walk to/from work each day, yet I cannot put on my socks without panting. This I self-diagnosed is because I’m still unfit, anxious or am in need of a sock butler.
  2. I have developed a literal pain in the neck that shoots through my shoulder, down my mousing arm and halts before the carpal tunnel zone. The cure for this would I’m sure, be 3 sessions of simple physiotherapy and some sweet sweet Tramadol. I know, because it’s worked before.
  3. I’ve got a couple of re-grown subcutaneous bumps that simply need hacking out of my back. Again, this works because I had the procedure some years ago. She confirmed my benign diagnosis and closed the case when I closed my shirt.

The up shot is that the shallow breathing dominates everything else. I’ve been sent for a blood test and a heart examination. I asked if I could in the meantime be referred to a physiotherapist and get some kite-high pain killers. She said NO. I asked if I could get the lumps removed and she said NO. I needed these small pounds of (my own) flesh because if nothing else, two items would have come off my list and my mental health would have benefitted. Although I do not have an Autism Spectrum disorder, I have mental lists and feel better from seeing them being ticked off. I was not helped to feel better.

Everything depends on the breathing inspired Medical Tests before anything else. I asked why these tests had to be first when pills and physiotherapy would at least attack the pain. She told me ‘we’re a surgery, medical tests is what we do’. This was not delivered either rudely or with sarcasm, but I felt like all the doctor was doing was sending me for tests rather than coming up with a fix. Perhaps this is sensible, yet I know that getting another appointment will take ages and I will not get to see the same practitioner and it’ll be like going back to square one; Snakes & Ladders: Ladders & Snakes. snakes and

The other thing that came out of the discussion was that she wanted to approach my issues in a kind of flow chart order and in isolation of each other. To her, a medical approach meant looking at the breathing first (I suppose because it was Number 1 in my diary) and each problem on a stand-alone basis. She eschewed the idea of looking at me as a person. I really wanted to ask her why a young practitioner was taking this old school approach and was not looking at me holistically. I suppose she missed the optional seminar ’The Holistic Approach to Medicine: take it or leave it, you’re cleverer than your patients and you must let them know it’.

I also think that by using a divide and rule approach it was a simple way of kicking my can down the road and making sure she didn’t have to be around for anything that might transpire. She could happily report back to the practice manager that this particular patient may or may not have problems that are linked and the tests results (which will probably get lost in the post) can be overseen by an intern in the hospital. Pressure off and on with the next tactic of dodging the bullet.

Photos

Doctor: mentalfloss.com/article/30337/24-vintage-pictures-doctors-work

Snakes & Ladders: giochidelloca.it/images/s/snakes0884a.jpg

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“Take my good side”

 

‘Social Media,’ (now there’s oxymoron) is becoming an increasing concern, especially but not exclusively for parents and could be more anti-social than social.

The BBC reported on 4th January http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42563173 Schools should play a bigger role in preparing children for social media’s emotional demands as they move from primary to secondary school, England’s children’s commissioner says. Anne Longfield said she was worried many pupils at that stage became anxious about their identity and craved likes and comments for validation. Her study said children aged eight to 12 found it hard to manage the impact. SWEET JANE BLOG-SELFIDGES ADVERT

Although my instinct is to slaughter everything ‘internet’ I suppose I shall have to be a bit more objective because however much one might wish to pull the plug I, like so many other people am pretty much connected all the time. Damn it, I even have some SMART home devices plus the ability to see what an elderly live-alone relative is up to. Not only can I be spied upon but I can spy on and stalk.

Investigations have begun into the impact of social media on the nation’s youth but what about the adults and are there differences in our respective uses and effects of social media?

 

Adults tend to worry about their children. This is matched by children not being concerned about their adults. (This is probably morally correct, young children should not have to worry about their parents, there’s plenty of scope for that in the future!)

Children appear fearless when it comes to hitting the keyboard and tapping their screens whereas most adults over 40 are still suspicious about the SEND button (aka Carriage Return) because they know there can be negative impacts from it. Whereas the young will spray out words and images with barely any self-control, most adults will try to self edit. Until, at least, they become addicted to the speed of unconsidered self-expression.

It’s happened to me. Just over a year ago a famous musician died. It wasn’t anyone I valued or admired (his music was to my ears, damp and derivative) but a friend of mine used to perform a tribute act of this singer and I told him on Facebook that now was the time to re-ignite his career. ‘After all’ I LOLLED, ‘you’re better than him anyway’. I was promptly scalded by another person for being insensitive and I immediately scrambled around to delete my comment.

I felt foolish and gauche because in attempting a ‘funny’ I inadvertently showed the world a side of me I didn’t want to display. Like so many others who use FB and its business oriented cousin; Linked In, I try to sculpt a portrait of what I want people to see but it’s so easy to undermine one’s own hard posturing when a moment of spontaneity arrives and obliterates it all. I know some folk really buy into online arguments and trading insults but like in my real life, I really hate confrontation.

I think that people fall into three broad groups.

Group One contains those who rather like President Trump have no compunction in letting their inner rebel teen ejaculate half thought thoughts and angry tantrums. Opinions will land where they will and everyone shall choose how to feel and react. ‘Your problem mate, not mine’.

Group Two includes those like my friend whose online liberal leanings are probably at odds with the lifestyle he has finally achieved in middle age. He really wants to be loved for the good things about him (I’m the same) and knows there are warts and blotches to be masked.

The third group would include people like my father who have a vague idea of what it’s all about but forget there is no privacy and that what you might say from the heart and feels like a private comment to a presence you recognise, can come back and bite you.

Many of us have written diaries. It’s not a new thing and if the plethora of available January-December diary/notebooks is anything to go by, is something that still has a market. Entries in your daily diary are very different from what you might put on a Facebook timeline because they are not private. There’s a freedom of thought that a writer can afford to add to an A5 diary because you do not expect it to be seen by anyone else. When however your writing hits social media, it has the potential to seen and judged far, deep and wide. Forever. diarycover

Once the writer is aware of this, his output becomes very different from that of a private diarist. To start, abbreviations and codes have to go because nobody will understand them. Then, if the writer wants to avoid embarrassment, they are unlikely to reveal deep dark secrets and — much like me — keep away from politics and sex. Instead, what we add to the web it is hoped will reveal ideas that are amusing and thought provoking. What these ideas are does not perhaps matter, so long as they present one’s good side and don’t ruin your public image, that’ll just about do.

 

 

 

Six Nil: Under control and not so bad.

 

Musings on the edge of the seventh decade

A feature of having a December birthday is that if you are minded to review the year gone by you can run a parallel between your own and the calendar one. If however you are on the cusp of closing off a decade it is less easy to draw seasonal parallels because the task that daunts is to review several tens of years in one go. I am choosing to not do that. 

This blog has in the past discussed rock stars that have influenced me (in particular Bolan, Bowie & Mercury) but one musician I have not so far discussed is Renato Zero.

I came across Renato Zero when I was living in Venice in the summer of ’74. The TV guide described him as the Italian Bowie, yet his look, which not only channelled but also out-camped British Glam Rock was very Freddie. His music was more challenging to get into because it was, and in 2017, still is, not really rock. It generally consists of power ballads played by swirling acoustic orchestras, over which his deep gritty voice (all Italian singers sound like Rod Stewart) rasps in tones of great drama, deep injustice or extrovert melancholia. Subject matter tends to range from dark vice ridden alleys to the bright vice ridden circus and back to the dark alleys again. The Italian public long ago accepted Zero as a national treasure and he still tours and records today. The look has changed, after all 40+ years of success have taken a toll and let’s face it, if you live in Rome and are an economic success there is little point in remaining pale wan and thin when you are surrounded by the best food and wine the planet can offer. Nowadays he wears all-covering black cloaks and ‘professor’ glasses in the style of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka. 

RenatoZero
The was and still is an artist that has offended  his name is. Nothing. 

There are two reasons why I feel it appropriate to mention Renato Zero in this, the last blog of my 50’s:

  1. He has been with me since I was 16. The same time as my Holy Holy Rock Trinity began, except he is still alive and somehow manages to cast occasional tunes of tragedy and nostalgia over my ageing ear drums.
  2. When in 2010, Renato reached the big ‘Six Oh’ he produced a music album and a book called ‘Sei Zero’ (Sei is the Italian for 6 and for ‘you are’) and so archly translates as ‘YOU ARE NOTHING’. This was supported by a written reflection based on him being told when he was a child that ZILCH was all he would amount to. When therefore he selected a stage persona, he went for ZERO with a sense of irony and an erect middle finger. All good stuff.

Perhaps it’s quite easy to look back at your detractors and laugh at them if you are sixty and still famous. You have eager record company executives, publishers and a loyal fan base. The inner artistic demons might still be present but if you can create products, the platforms are there. Renato Zero used a mini essay to rebuke his early critics but turned most of his 60th celebration into a positive dedication to the city of Rome and people he lives among.  

Over these last 60 years I have learned that if you are not widely known there is little point in digging up ghosts from the past because the humiliation you might wish to inflict will fall on a wasteland and will just make you look foolish. So although there are people who I’d have liked to sneer at (mainly maths teachers and the odd work-place boss) I neither have the platform nor the need and will instead look, like Mr Zero at the good in the places and people around me.

This is a positive position and one that remains staunchly stoic. On the plus side, things are more or less under control and are not so bad but I have to say too that on the disappointing side nothing has really amazed or stunned me. I’ve seen my children born and grow, I’ve seen my football teams win championships and The World Cup and I have been present at death. I have even contemplated various metaphorical navels and earlier this year I embarked on a project whereby I pursued the joys and detailed thinking afforded by SILENCE. (See blog from February 2017) yet like Blue Tack, nothing really stuck for long. I once looked off a mountain top in The Rockies, said ‘wow’ aloud and tried so hard to be awestruck but somehow my inner me checked it off a minor bucket list and gently, without risk, I skied down to safety.

My eldest daughter recently told me she was disappointed in my current mindset because I only seem to engage in comedic entertainments (film, TV, theatre, books) and my desire for documentary and serious deep drama has waned. She is right. I find myself attracted to television programmes from which I can walk away and even if I’m at the 85% mark, I feel no regret when I do so. I avoid so-called Box Sets because I don’t need any more commitment in my life and will still only read a book if it has a maximum of 330 pages. My years are getting longer and my attention span is getting shorter. This is not a fear of my dying before reaching the end but is to do with the fact that I have experienced every kind of denouement and nothing can pleasantly surprise me anymore.

Story tellers and philosophers tell us that the joy is in the journey and not the destination and as I get on, this is ever clearer but I must also add that avoiding pain along the way has become a priority.

As I walked to work this morning I passed the spot, as I do every day, where I had a motorbike accident in 1975 (ok, it was a 50cc moped). 

TSB BW
The chunk of pavement that assaulted me late one August night in 1975. The window is intact and so is my head.

I was young, drunk and considering I flew headlong into the glass window of what is today a bank, lucky to be alive. I learned this the following morning when a nurse strapped up my shoulder and berated me. That moment, when I was 17, was the last big risk I took. It re-shaped me and even if I was a potential risk-taker before the collision, I never was afterwards.

This is not a note of regret, just an observation and it is with this approach that I shall carry on. It’s not as if nothing really matters, because it does but if I have succeeded in one thing it’s to have established a benevolent split persona. My inside remains the frustrated 20th Century Boy with dreams and artistic pretentions, yet the success I seek is no longer that elusive publishing deal (I achieved that one) but simple approval (and payment) from 3rd parties that hire me to mark exam papers and to give the odd lecture on my own philosophies (I quit acting in the 1980’s because I was bored with reciting other peoples’ words and the same applies to delivering seminars and training sessions). My outside is a much better and fortunate place. I am surrounded by a group of females I had never expected. Women were a deep mystery to me as I grew up. I either avoided them or over-killed (myself) with them. Now my wife and three daughters give me a before–the-fall King Lear strength I had never envisaged. As a family we are like an office chair with 5 wheeled feet (4 wheels were deemed unsafe some 20+ years ago). The chair gets shoved around the office yet stays upright. It bangs into desks and chips the paint, but never falls over. Even if any one of the wheels gets sticky or becomes loose the chair remains stable albeit a touch wobbly.

And so, returning to the message of the Stoic, I hereby count my blessings because tomorrow, or tomorrow’s tomorrow something will attack them and by committing the good things to paper, or indeed a blog, their confirmation in the here and now exists forever.

How do you know that you’re right?
If you’re not nervous anymore
It’s not so bad, it’s not so bad

I feel my vision slipping in and out of focus
But I’m pushing on for that horizon
I’m pushing on
Now I’ve got that blowing wind against my face

Chair2

Walk This Way. Life lessons from Walking Football

 

Arriving at Barnet’s Hive to play Walking Football (WF), I felt that same trepidation and excitement as when I first played. I hadn’t kicked a ball in eight years and I later learned that others hadn’t done so in decades. As I looked around at this sample of middle age Britain, I realised that at 58, I was neither the youngest nor the oldest. To be honest, I looked at some of the other players and wrote them off because of their physical appearance.Aerosmith13

LESSON ONE; never write anybody off! As we began playing regularly we got fitter, better and some rediscovered close-ball skills they thought were lost.  

Coaches know that practice leads to improvement yet WF shows that this can happen at practically any age. Forgotten abilities return, albeit at a lower level and poignantly this rediscovery triggers enthusiasm and joy.

As a work-place coach I help people improve performance. Whether in an office, classroom or restaurant kitchen I know by guiding them back to their motivation, their work (with further input from technical experts) will meliorate.

I ruptured my ACL 21 years ago and consequently have a biscuit leg. Walking Football suits me and my best contributions are when I stick to the classic lean moves of STOP the ball, CONTROL, DISTRIBUTE/SHOOT. BARNET

Even if I wanted to walk/dribble at pace I couldn’t and hope that once the sport’s laws are officialised it becomes three-touch. WF also reminds us of the value in playing economically and does not suit those that still try to go it alone.  

LESSON TWO: I was coaching the directors of a group of Boutique Hotels who were getting deeply confused by overcomplicated accounts processes (management accounts, forecasts etc). I suggested comparing the whole business to a football team and to decide which player the finance office was. We settled on Defensive Midfielder because the tasks were clear; STOP (or reduce) money going out, CONTROL it once it was in (bank and log it correctly) and DISTRIBUTE it properly. We know that these functions should be undertaken by all players (and hence other departments), but by letting managers visualise the department as a particular position, it became easier to communicate to other sections.

LESSON THREE:  A key technique of WF is not to pass ‘into space.’ To find your teammate you must pass to feet or risk the ball flying into touch. We learn to play to where our colleague is rather than where they will be. It’s a great life lesson; listen to peers and customers and provide what is needed right now; tomorrow may never come.

To conclude, the reduced speed of Walking Football forces re-evaluation. You’d assume that older people would readily adapt to playing slowly but strangely even with leaden legs the mind still wants you to run. Football and work activities all tap into old habits. These habits can actually change, but to facilitate this we have to slow down, contemplate and practice.  

 

 

Travel Nerves

 

I’m a nervous traveller.

At first glance this is odd because I’ve been travelling alone since I was 8 years old and despite having made tens if not hundreds of work and leisure trips over the years I still get the jitters.

Even odder is that travel is pretty much my destiny. I don’t take astrology at all seriously, yet I am aware that as a Sagittarian, being a traveller is supposedly a trait.

It’s hard to be sure why travel stresses me so much. I like the freedom and experience of going and being elsewhere but certainly as I get older I feel an anxiety about the transit side of things.

Sagittarius
I don’t believe in Star Signs, but here is mine anyway

My suspicion is that having arranged so many trips for clients over the years added to all my own experiences, I am super-aware of the laws of s-d that means something can always go wrong. I recall that in 1992 as I was queueing in Rome airport to go to Sicily when I thought I’d lost my passport. I was by the gate and completely flipped. I had a tantrum/meltdown that rendered me out of control until an army-clad official came up to me and told me to calm down. He asked for permission to frisk me for the missing document and within a few seconds, he found it.

A similar thing once happened at Porto whnervous-234x300en I missed a flight and more recently as I was sauntering through Heathrow T2 I heard my name aloud on the PA system. The shock and horror hit like a bolt. I had thought I was just a few feet from the gate when it dawned that I was walking in 100% the wrong direction. I span on heel and sprinted from the Iberia to the Alitalia zone and made the flight. I could go on as I’ve had more near misses but even now these recollections are making me even more nervous.

All in then, it’s the not being in control that does it for me. I’ll  stop now because the hyperventilating is starting.

Out and In…

Breathe out and in…

 

 

Pic credits:

Sagitarrius: https://www.the-astrology-of-love.com/how-to-attract/a-sagittarius-man/

http://www.arenapersonnel.com/arena-nervous-attending-interviews/

 

We are Tangent

My team leader returned a particular student’s exam paper to me and told me that despite the answer being relatively eloquent and logical that I had over marked it and I was required to reduce. Although my instinct was to argue the case, I ceded to my superior and dutifully did as I was told. What a pity.

The pity is not that as a mature person I kept qTangentLine_1000uiet and obeyed, it’s that students, especially in the humanities arena often score lower than they should because they ‘fail to answer the question’. Ever since I was that type of student myself the rebel devil in my head has thought: Actually mate, I have answered your damned question but I’ve taken it upon myself to add something else of interest. What you asked is limited and predictable and as an arty person I’m giving you more. More in fact than you deserve.

Nothing has changed, least of all the continuing conspiracy that places a science template over the bones of creative thought with the sole aim to ‘straighten it all out’ because as we know, ‘they’ have never liked deviation and tangential ideas.

When I was young…I declared myself a romantic thinker in the vein of Goethe and Shelley, I subsequently signed up to Surrealism and Existentialism. I bought into everything I could to demarcate myself from my friends who were homing in on business and science. The main problem though was (and still is) that I had too little talent to be a really great artist and despite my medalling with a guitar, a few pastel on sketchbook etchings and an attempt to make Mime the new language  of global communication I pulled back from faux creativity and became an observer.

I’ve been marking exams for about 6 years and have seen all kinds of variations on the correct answer. The easiest ones to mark are the blank pages because zero is zero in any language and by the way kids, that old wives’ tale about scoring 1 for spelling your own name properly is incorrect. We don’t see or even care about your name and in true ‘Prisoner’ terms you really are a number and not a name.

But I digress.  Students who put nought get nought. Waffle/padding is easy to spot and is not worth including. Eventually what leaners need to put is the right answer. I enjoy reading the extra stuff and once in every two hundred the candidate persuades me to give them extra marks. I however resist that temptation because although I may think it’s deserved, my performance too is being watched and if I were to unilaterally add bonus points I’d be sacked very soon after.exams

The pity then is that the 1 in 200 extra bit of inspiration evaporates. The student probably forgets what she wrote and the assessor can only focus on the correct stuff. Brilliant, inspiring spur of the under-pressure moment ideas arrive and depart in a flash. Tangents are erased and words like plan, focus and quantify continue to maraud the future.

Photo credits
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/TangentLine.html
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1354174/University-blunder-exam-papers-handed-answers-stapled-back.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Zuckerberg, over 2U!

 

More and more frequently I am finding myself falling into the Facebook trap of liking (their word not mine) links to the support of people with disabilities and I sometimes even get channelled over to signing online petitions. I don’t normally like ‘liking’ and I avoid overt political statements and things that might come back to haunt me one day, but when it comes to acknowledging things such as bullying and mental health I find an upsurge of a need to scream ‘injustice’ coupled with the as-yet-unnamed emotion ‘World, please see me as a good guy’. hide and seek

I suspect one reason for all this is that I feel guilty for being ignorant and guilty for not being helpful to people I ought to be helping. I also suspect I am not alone in this and that by opening our Facebook souls we are somehow assuaging this guilt. If you think I’m about to say this is wrong and shallow, I’m not. Indeed although a public airing does little to immediately support those that might benefit by creating awareness, which in business terms is a chief function of Marketing, a first step is being taken. But it is only a first step.

The mention above of my own ignorance comes from a specific incident that happened today. One of my daughters was offered the chance to attend a free training programme (run indeed by a credible organisation) to help her set up her own business. My reaction was immediately upbeat and positive (i.e. pushy) and when she displayed reticence I went into the predictable parental assault/tirade about ‘missed opportunity’ and ‘it’s a once-in a lifetime chance’ when I ought to have realised, as pointed out by an observing third party, that she was basically scared and I ought have taken another more paternal approach.

Recap: Here I am; a writer, a Facebook sympathy giver and somebody who wants to look like a good guy failing at entry level Emotional Intelligence. I cannot even read my offspring’s feelings.

And yet again, I am sure I’m not alone. What is happening in this Facebook age is that many of us are taking to the touchscreen and demonstrating our nuanced skills of empathy and advocacy. This is a reaction to getting more information and hopefully (but with no guarantees), more knowledge about topics like depression, self-harm and cancer. A cost of this however is that some of us are creeping away from real-life interaction and hiding behind the cleanliness and safety of the keyboard. I don’t think we are to be blamed. So much of the modern world turns us towards selfish and egotistic behaviour and I believe the internet and its stable mates (smart phones, tablets, on-demand viewing etc.) all enforce and consolidate the message ‘you are alone, buy into it and act alone’.

At this stage I am not proposing a solution, I was the one that wanted to sacrifice Tim Berners-Lee  at the 2012 Olympics ceremony rather than celebrate him, but realistically had it not been him it would have been somebody else. I do think however that perhaps Mr Facebook himself could look into turning his behemoth into something that actively helps people to actively help. Mark ZUck

Mark Zuckerberg over 2U,

 

 

 

 

images:
https://uk.pinterest.com/susanjn/childrens-books/
http://metro.co.uk/2017/03/10/mark-zuckerberg-and-wife-expecting-second-child-despite-fears-they-would-not-conceive-again-6500466/