Linda, my ranch neighbour gets up at 5 every morning and she’s on the land by 5.30 mucking out into my midden and tending to her pony. She leaves at sevenish then comes back late afternoon to put Sapphire in her stable and feed her black, white and ginger cat a second time. The cat is completely tame with her, but won’t come anywhere near me or anyone else.
The foxes have been there for as long as I can remember. Maybe, because Linda is such a reliable fixture of that tucked-away landscape, they more or less ignore her. They play on her arena every day and as the morning matures, they disappear. One morning, she told me how one had been nosing around the cat who was completely disinterested (a fox is no match for a cat.) I have a faint ghostly grainy trail cam clip from a couple of years ago of a vixen clearing my six foot straggly rose thorn hedge, closely followed by two cubs.
Animals are in all the big literature from all nations and cultures since the beginning of time – particularly stories of close interaction with humans. Narnia, Tolkien, Dark Materials. They’re everywhere. In Japan, they’re kitsune. A universal theme is an animal as some kind of spirit guide or familiar.
Foxes have always divided opinion. England has a strong farming community and farmers have no qualms – foxes will eat lambs as they are being born and if they get into a chicken coup, they routinely kill the lot. If a farmer sees a fox then it’s bang with the shotgun.
Christmas has been good. I worked the 2-10 on Christmas Eve and 12-8 yesterday. I have to try and write about Emergency Medicine purely to extol the magnificent virtues of the people who work there and to describe what no TV programme can ever capture. A&E people are down to earth and ordinary. The reality of the maelstrom and delusions of grandeur are mutually exclusive.
Paradoxically, patients who need an eye keeping on are positioned close to the central area where we co-ordinate from. Often they are the noisiest and most demanding. On Christmas Eve, there was a lady who’d had a bit too much to drink and was waiting for a taxi home. Every few seconds, she kept asking ‘Where’s my taxi?’ At one point, I had to be quite strict with her when she was swearing in front of other patients. ‘Cunt’ she muttered under her breath.
On Christmas Eve, we had 3 tubed patients in resusc and it seemed like the entire anaesthetic department were down. The was a bit of comradic banter going on – we have a brilliant relationship with our colleagues from other specialities although occasionally there’s the odd challenge (only rarely I hasten to add) – like yesterday, when a reg, cross-covering for ENT, phoned down asking us to make a clinic appointment for a patient who had been waiting for ages but who he hadn’t actually bothered to come and see.
I was diplomatically eavesdropping when the lovely nurse coordinator was trying to get a reasonable response from him
‘Hold on, I’ll just hand you over to my consultant’.
‘ED needs to make an appointment for this patient – I’m very busy in theatre.’
‘No we don’t, she’s your patient – you need to come and see her.’
Another snivelling diatribe ensues and I cut him short – I tell him what busy really is – trolleys lining every corridor and no beds for patients to go to.
‘Shall I phone your consultant and ask him to do it?’
Previously, I mentioned my cynicism about isolating mindfulness from wider spiritual traditions. It struck me recently that it’s actually already there in two of our commonly used expressions ‘absent-minded’ and ‘take a deep breath.’ The more common Buddhist theme is ‘mindfulness of the longest breath.’ In fact, I was thinking about it when I walked up to the ranch early on Christmas Day. I got there and realised I’d forgotten my keys. Ha. Another big Buddhist theme is compassion – karuna in Pali. It’s encompassed beautifully in the emergency department, although no-one realises that they’re practising it.
Christmas day was a blast. We cooked for 9 and I was in charge. I didn’t think anyone would come until late afternoon, but Sam came at 11 and inevitably the first bottle of sparkly was opened. There was banter on the work What’s App about Christmas day refreshments and a splendid early start by a colleague’s wife at 9:11. Spider and Gaz came and we carried on late playing punk singles and Sam and I played a few tunes on the guitar.
On Boxing Day I was wiped out and the ranch was eerily grey and dismal with not a soul in sight. I feel another period of abstinence and plant-based diet coming on.
I’ve been up today laying the hedge and digging a foundation to install a concrete plinth for yet another water tank to feed off the greenhouse roof – the foundations have sunk, so the guttering has dropped too low to feed the existing tanks. I’m determined to finish that darned greenhouse before spring. Already, hawthorn leaves are appearing – it seems far too early.
Now is the time to order seeds and seed potatoes – I use the excellent seed co-operative which sells only UK open-pollinated seed – tremendously important both now and in times to come.
At what point does one become a writer? What defines a writer? The inference of calling someone a writer is that they make a living out of it and I’m a long way off that. One thing is certain though – if you want to write, you have to do it regularly. Hence my feeble weekly attempts. Obvs I already wrote one book and this will form the second, but there’s a third one the go in the background. Tappety-tap on the keyboard. The cool kids recommend that one should blog regularly and ‘drop’ one’s blogs at the same time every week. They also recommend about 400 words, but once I get going, it’s probably triple that.
A few things have been notable this Yuletide: the fires in Australia; the long columns of white-clad marching fascists in India; the New Year’s honours list (the splendid long-obsolete British Empire and its associated usery) and the Boxing Day hunts where the Tories glory in ‘fuck you snowflake – the law is meaningless now – we can do what the fuck we want’.
The news snippet that stuck in my mind above all the others, was the tale of a very prominent establishment lawyer bludgeoning a fox to death in his central London garden whilst wearing his wife’s Kimono.
The fox was trapped in the netting of his suburban chicken coup and his immediate instinct was to stove in its skull with a baseball bat. He then thought it was a good idea to brag about it on Twitter.
This was somehow a metaphor for so much. For a start, if he’s a prominent lawyer he must have at least some empathy for the underdog – clearly not – such is his gargantuan arrogance and self-importance.
The backlash is interesting. He is irrevocably and irrefutably on the cunt register for all eternity, but that’s just the public story. What about the secret under-story? Do familiars and brujos and diableros really exist? Off course they f’ing do. They appear at twilight in the crack between the worlds. Mr Fox is our familiar but more to the point, foxes have their own familiars and they are waiting in the wings – they can wield a baseball bat with more intelligence and accuracy than ever this porky fucker could. The over-world, the under-world, the waking world and perhaps best of all the dark dream world. The fact that there is no hiding place for this Jolly cunt, is a beacon of hope for those of us who quietly work the land and respect all that lives thereupon.
Yesterday was a tough shift. Smithy was on the on-call and as usual, we had one of our gentle old-twat conversations – business as usual in the best emergency department in the world.
Burnley are playing Man-United with a late kick-off and I’m hoping to get home in time to beat the football traffic. Thank fuck Louise has put the bollards out. Boff calls in after the match. We talk at length about the line-up for the Sick of Being Normal – Pendle Punk 40 years on gig. We decide that we’ll do a cool little rockabilly thing where he sings, I play guitar and Khany plays double-bass. We’re doing Big Al Downing’s Georgia Slop + rockabilly versions of Red Stripe, Tiger Tails, Chimp Eats Banana and maybe a Notsensibles song. It’s a relief that it’s all sorted.
Screech Rock; MeLeon; Boff, Sage & Khany Rockabilly Sensation; Gaz and Sage house band, Ruthless poetry.
Cool as fuckety- fuck. Khany flies in from Florida on the Thursday night so rehearsal time is tight.
I get home late from a shitty shift. I go in the back yard and the fat ginger stray cat is suddenly wowing at my ankles. I’m not in the mood. I leave the door open. Cautiously he creeps across the floor, pausing to groom himself half-way. He slinks the rest and jumps up on the chair – his hazel cat eyes are staring into mine. There is a moment of unfettered telepathy.
‘Cunt. I am not a wizard. You are not my familiar. Fuck off.’
He does that thing that cats do – he digs his claws into my scrubs then does some kind of weird pummelling with his back legs then slouches and purrs and purrs. I do a sudden jolting movement towards the computer hoping he’ll fuck off, but he digs in deeper and purrs even more.