Monday, 23 September 2013

My premature funeral

It was Mark Twain who is said to have claimed, 'reports of my death are greatly exaggerated', when his death was mistakenly reported in the New York Journal. Now so far as I am aware my death has not been reported in any obituary column, but recently listening to friends say kind things about me was somewhat funereal!. At funerals I have so often hoped that the words that are spoken about the deceased had also been uttered to the deceased before that person had died! So now I know.

Just a couple of weeks ago some twenty of us went up to Colonsay in the Hebrides to celebrate my iminent 60th birthday. In addition to my small family, several friends kindly made the trek up. At the beginning of the celebratory meal my longstanding friend Dave Greaves spoke generously about me. I have to say I felt rather choked. And then just to put the nail in the coffin (so to speak), my pastor Ray Evans, also said some very touching complimentary words. That clinched it. Although I would love to have stood up and given a witty talk, I felt completely lost for words. I was truly moved by a sense of being loved. Now I haven't lacked for love, since I had wonderfully loving parents, I've had a devoted wife for 35 years, and two daughters who shower me with thoughtful love on a regular basis. But there was something about the coming together of friends and family, and the milestone that is 60 years of age, that just got to me.

Am I going soft? Maybe. But to be loved and to know that you are loved is so crucial. Of course different people have differing ways of showing love (hence The five love languages by Chapman), but it does need showing.

Some years ago I was at a James Taylor concert with my wife and daughters. He sang the beautiful song, Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. I have often thought just how important  that sentiment is. Indeed it's not enough to feel the emotion of love, it needs demonstrating.



So as a Christian I know I am loved, extravagantly, undeservedly and consistently.

'God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us'. Romans 5.8

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Jumping to conclusions

Oh no!
It is well known that GPs make very quick judgements about patients right from the moment the patient gets up out of the waiting room chair, whether with a sigh or a groan or a glum expression. Multiple thoughts pass through the physician's mind. Perhaps a prediction of a request for a sickness certificate (OK they are not called that now), or a concern that the consultation is going to be long and draining. And with 10 minutes per consultation, speed of thought is necessary.

This morning I saw a man who had spoken to me on the phone the previous day. He had experienced some blood in his urine and was naturally concerned. I arranged to see him first thing and asked him to bring two urine samples. Now men have a habit of bringing rather unusual containers for their samples, whether it be the traditional Lucozade bottle or the wife's empty perfume bottle, or even an old style milk bottle. So I was somewhat concerned when I saw him clutching a John Lewis bag with a large container outlined within it. I had visions of having to carefully decant the large bottle into appropriate containers, no doubt spilling some urine down the sides in the process. So what joy when the contents ere revealed-two universal containers compete with urine, and a bottle of Spanish Gran Reserva.

Oh joy!
How many difficulties would be lessened if we learned to not be hasty in our judgements, whether it be patiently listening to a faltering patient who finds it hard to express themselves, or assuming that all patients with similar symptoms need similar treatments or just being in that hurried state that so many of us get ourselves into when we are not managing ourselves very well.

At root of this difficulty is what has been popularly called 'hurry sickness'. GPs are particularly exposed to this, especially with an increasing number of opportunities for measurement and advice (much of which is urged by the DOH),  which are present in every consultation. Whether it be height and weight, smoking status, advice on longterm contraception, enquiry about vaccination, 'lifestyle advice...and that all before the poor old patient has had a chance to say anything! No wonder many GPs feel stressed. Somehow we have to learn to take the pace off the consultation, rather like a top batsmen coping with a very fast bowler-not by hitting straight back over the bowler's head, but by guiding the ball with soft hands on the bat, using the of pace the ball generated by the bowler. So don't try to accomplish everything in every consultation, allow the patient to speak, try to prioritise what is achievable, and don't jump to conclusions!

Happiness, holidays and the Hebrides

Just back from nearly two weeks on the lovely Hebridean island of Colonsay. I'm reluctant to extol it's virtues too much since I'm not sure that I want too many people to know about it!

It was lovely to be with my family and my soon to be son-in-law Owen, in addition to longstanding fellow Colonsay-ites, the Greaves family along with Alex. And then several good friends who joined us for a few days to celebrate my forthcoming 60th birthday. I so appreciated the effort everyone made since Colonsay is not easy to get to.

One of the many reasons that we have returned so many times is the spending of time doing simple things, like walking, talking, cycling, reading, 'golfing' (you would understand why the quotes if you knew the course), and all in a beautiful setting. OK Hebridean weather can be truly awful but we probably had 50% of the time with lovely clear bright days. And then there was then Folk Festival with truly superb music. One of the performers was Roberto Diana, a humble Sardinian guitarist with extraordinary skill.


Here he is performing on Colonsay's lovely Kiloran beach.



The Long Walk

It's always a bit chancy to give someone a book. A little like recommending a restaurant. Will others like it? Will the service be as go...