Ramblings and adventures


I’m cold and wet. I’ve just walked through the park and the blustery March gales delivered a dose of HHWDR (Horizontal Heavy Wind Driven Rain). I’ve managed to light the stove with difficulty. Everything including the kindling is damp damp damp. All the seams of my well-designed rear shedlet are oozing and dripping. Wood shrinks and expands and sways in the gales and the sealant that I’ve chosen to seal everything up isn’t working.

In February we had a surreal heatwave – the English press went ballistic – ‘The hottest February day since – since – since EVER. Most people would just stay at home in today’s weather but I’m a dick, so it’s fine. Staggering in the gales is a good antidote to too much screen-staring and too much indoors.


There is a pervasive sense of the apocalyptic flavoured with despondency, which seems somehow to be linked to the changing worldwide weather. The Brexit fuck-up degenerates further into weary farce. Several millionaires with shares in dodgy companies have the fates of ordinary hard-working people in their hands. Once upon a time the ordinary people would have revolted and disposed of them, but we are now so hopelessly intoxicated by the internet that there is no chance of that. Nothing about these billi-millionaires represents me or the poor and hopeless of Burnley and Salford.

A lunatic has gunned down 50 or so people in one of the most peaceful trouble-free countries on earth. Polarisation increases and hatred grows and once again the internet and social media in particular is responsible.

Meanwhile up here, it’s still lashing with rain. Within minutes of the kindling bursting into flame, the stove pipe is searingly hot and the rear shedlet gets toasty. The trees are not despondent. They are in bud. The hawthorn leaves that first appeared below the window behind me in early Feb are now fully formed and lots of stuff is starting to come up.

And so it is that the relentless mundane tasks up here are a great leveller – steadying, comforting. I’m planting as many seeds as possible under the lean-to and the four propagators. The reward? Food – grossly under-estimated until you’re hungry. What’s the point when you can just go to the supermarket? Unless you’re in Yemen or Syria or Palestine that is – or maybe even post-Brexit Britain. Who knows?

So that’s the answer when things in the outside world seem overwhelmingly apocalyptic. I can cultivate my inner world – i.e. the ranch – and hopefully some of it trickles into the outer world. As above, so below y’all. That’s where art comes in – crafting something impeccable, inspired by nature – the exquisite beauty of the blackthorn blossom. Putting cryptic things in songs that you could never possibly say out loud and so on.

Along with the other two ‘Winter projects’, the fledgling greenhouse, now in its third year of uncompletion, remains incomplete, although I have managed to get the first two sections of roof frames on. I planned the initial foundations badly, so had to add more at the front with two extra supports. Now it looks more like a medieval Viking hall than a greenhouse. Routine tasks take priority, so the projects often get left behind.

I used the transport box on the back of the tractor for the first time last week to take some fencing stuff up to the top of the field. Simple things. The week before, the tractor broke down – it just slowed and wouldn’t start again. After a lifetime of messing with old vehicles, I knew straight away that it was a fuel blockage. I left it where it was for the night and did a bit of research using that double-edged sword that is the internet. The next day, despite a torrent of doubts about the wisdom of having a sixty-four-year-old tractor, I find the blockage quickly and once again, I marvel at what an astounding piece of engineering it is. I made the right choice. Sometimes, older is better. Here is something that I can fix myself with a handful of tools – no expensive un-mendable computerised boxes.

I used the van during the hot spell to bring up a load of timber and sand and cement. It’s looking very tired. I keep thinking of selling it but I can’t until I’ve fulfilled my ambition of doing a plant sale in it. I’ve started planting pots of herb seeds to sell.


Rock & Roll

Our Painting Snails ‘tour’ comprising 20 or so gigs over more than a year ran its course. It’s been me and Sam’s band – they’ve changed their name 3 times and now they’re Bulbeater. It’s been quite neat – they’ve pretty much played every gig with us. Two generations on the same bill. Family Rock & Roll. Ha. We’re both concise 3-pieces so it works well. I DJed at Gig’s 40th and we played on Fri at the wonderful Golden Lion.

For the first time in ages, we have no forthcoming gigs and I’m kind of glad of a break. We have a three track radio session to record and there’s the exciting 40 year North East Lancs punk project coming up. We’re both planning records and maybe we’ll tour when they’re done.


I never intended to write about ‘the day job’ but in the end several chapters wrote themselves – there are important stories in there and some serious heroes who deserve to be bigged-up. I don’t like TV dramas and docs about Emergency Medicine – none of them capture what it’s really like – they all focus on the clinical side and not enough on the other aspects.

There’s been an endless debate since Emergency Medicine began – do we see anything and everything that comes through the door or do we use some gate-keeping and confine ourselves to just seeing emergencies? We’ve seen many many attempts over the years to move towards the latter and now there’s another one planned.

In our fragmenting society, Emergency Departments are often the last place where the disenfranchised, the lonely, the frail elderly, the vulnerable can come to. We do our best. I try to aspire to ‘Above all, be kind’. I get despondent when I can’t achieve it.

Only a proportion of what we do relates to what might reasonably classed as Emergency Medicine. The rest is dealing with the most complex long-standing social problems imaginable plus the surrounding bureaucracy. On top of that there is the constant juggling with desperate staff shortages not to mention doing menial administration stuff that no-one else wants to do.

Whatever the problem, some bright spark will say ‘You better go to A&E’. You don’t mind if it’s Auntie Nellie’s next-door neighbour, but it doesn’t half get wearisome when it’s a fellow professional who should simply know better.

I keep reading about the value of having a bit of fun in the workplace. I take the cheapo Stagg guitar that’s been in a cupboard for years and leave it in the corner of our office. Prof is a guitar player and Bruce and Thomo can each play three chords.

Boy's office

Yesterday, I take over coordinating from The Prof at about 4.30. There’s a patient who has been discharged from another city teaching hospital earlier in the day, with a long-standing complex problem. They haves chosen to come to our hospital because they are unhappy at being discharged. A consultant colleague sees them at a specialist clinic then invites them to attend ‘A&E’ but they don’t get round to discussing the patient with us.

Two hours and several phone calls later, it falls to me to see the patient and inform them that there is nothing that we are able to do for them as an Emergency Department. I endure a torrent of abuse and the whole process is miserably unsatisfactory for all involved. Meanwhile the department has become extremely busy – ambulances are queuing and the juggling act continues. Managers are enquiring why there’s a four hour wait – I’m getting tetchy. Despite all this, a fantastic bunch of committed hard-working people do their best. I could not wish for a better bunch of colleagues – as the rest of life becomes more and more reclusive, my workmates become my friends. Neat.

There’s an announcement on the news about forthcoming changes in Emergency Medicine. Statements from several presidents of Royal Medical Colleges are forthcoming with the notable exception of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine – more political spin. Has anyone mentioned that the same buffoons fucking about with Brexit have been meeting up with the large American healthcare/insurance companies – they’re selling off our NHS under our noses.

We had a shooting the other week and within minutes resusc was swamped with armed police officers. While Davers sorted the patient, (not seriously injured) I felt that it was my duty to ‘risk assess’ the prospect of swarms of Gangstas arriving for a shoot out (It occurs to me that the police would be better placed guarding the entrance to ED rather than standing in the middle of resusc – I briefly imagine what machine gun fire in resusc would be like.) As part of my assessment, I sit in as a CID officer interviews two witnesses. Strangely, neither of them saw anything when the bullets were flying.

I should be proud and maybe I am just a little bit – a scrote like me becoming an Emergency Medicine consultant in what will soon be Europe’s largest Trauma Centre. How did that happen? To complete the cycle (of the book and playing gigs), I had an overwhelming urge to play a gig in the city where I work. I chose the Eagle Inn. The demure and elegant nurse practitioner Ann Carlin was my ticket agent. As usual it was the two Hartley bands and Tricia did some poetry. It was a blast – loads of people came from work including my anaesthetist friend Ollie – he’s in the book. It just so happened that Louise and our three offspring were there and my cousin Sarah and her husband came all the way from Ainsdale. It was a sweet and apt ending to our tour.

I was actually having a twat-tantrum when I stomped through the park and the rain – the usual snivelling self-indulgent crap ‘How come I’m the only one who ever sorts anything out?’ etc etc. Before leaving, I put on John Lee Hooker’s magnificent I’m Leaving and stared out of the window dramatically. Louise gave me that withering Rowan Atkinson style Stop being a cunt look and said nothing. She’s heard it all before. After a bit of dithering on the ranch I went to the chippy and got fish, chips, peas and gravy. I promptly fell asleep in the den-like comfort of the rear shedlet and I woke up cured.

I was right about the cats – Ginger is far too fat to be starving. It turns out that our neighbour is feeding them too. It’s St Patrick’s day. Viva Ireland and the Irish.

Fickle stray cats

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