bookmark_borderThicker Than H2O

Doctors rarely marry nurses; it’s a generalisation but a valid one. As a rule doctor’s date nurses but marry other doctors. Nurses on the other hand tend to marry policemen and fireman, it’s like we have a similar respect for each other’s vocation, we all know that we are there, at the front line serving the community; we recognise kindred souls, folk like us who work shifts, get lots of platitudes from whichever government is in power but still receive shit pay.

So, nurses, policemen and firemen, kindred souls and we look after each other and when I was doing my nurse training this relationship was never more apparent when there was a blood shortage. Modern day nurses will be aghast at this but during the eighties when I was training we used to run out of blood quite frequently – so who do you call, no, not Ghostbusters but the local police station and fire station.

All Policemen and Firemen know their blood group and when supplies are low are willing to provide a convenient supply of blood.  This happened more frequently than realised during my training and it must seem barbaric to today’s nurses but it wasn’t just a one way street. You see, when the Matron put the call out for more blood two things happened at the same time.

First of all just about every unmarried policeman came rushing to the hospital because ..well.. nurses and policemen make for a potent mix so there literally was a rush of policemen to the ward with sirens on full blast “Well, it’s an emergency in’it..!”  it wasn’t really but any excuse to chat up the nursing staff.

The other thing that happened when the call went out was that every nurse made a beeline for the changing road and brushed their hair and put on fresh lippy…. Sometimes I’d look around the ward and I’d be the only member of Staff on there because everyone was doing their faces. Even today it’s the same story, the firemen came to my current place of work and a large proportion of the female staff headed to the bathroom…something about firemens uniforms..

Sadly for me I was male and not once, not once did a firewoman or policewoman pitch up to one of the wards to donate blood.. but I’m not bitter.. no…not bitter at all.. much 😉  (and everyone asks why I left nursing!)

bookmark_borderMay contain nuts (part deux)

The first time I walked onto Intensive Care (ICU) as a new staff nurse I thought “Holy Crap! This is like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise!” All those bleeping machines, monitoring equipment I didn’t recognise and so many lines and tubes attached to each patient.  I thought I had made a huge mistake and would never manage all this chaos. It reminded me of when I started on A&E, again I thought Holy Crap, this is like a friggin warzone, blood everywhere, I’d never be able to understand the organised chaos that is A&E!

Happily it didn’t that that long to get up to speed on ICU because there were many similarities with A&E. In ICU the priority was always the heart, lungs and kidneys, as long as we looked after those systems then the odds were good that the patient would survive. We had the same philosophy in ICU, look after the heart, lungs and kidneys and the rest will all follow in good time. That may seem like a very medical anatomy and physiological model but overriding this was absolutely everybody’s focus on the patient and their family, we worked as hard as possible to get absolutely everyone out of ICU in the best condition possible.

That was one similarity ICU had with A&E, the other similarity was nurses reaction to the fire alarm. The theory goes that nurses should prepare their patients, decided which ones can be evacuated from the unit and which ones are OK to stay, the nurse should be getting ready to move the patient into the next safe zone, usually theatres. However, what invariably happened was that every single female nurse (and some of the male ones too), would make a beeline for the changing room and put on their lippy and brush their hair for the expected firemen.  Nurses and firemen… and policemen, a potent mixture.. Sometimes when the fire alarm went off I would look around and realise I was the only nurse on this side of the unit! Nurses in A&E and ICU wore scrubs, what surgeons wear in theatre, it helps minimise infection control, you get a fresh set each shift and dump them in the laundry at the end of the shift. However, even Pamela Anderson with her enhanced silicon valley wouldn’t get a second look if she was wearing scrubs, so the priority was to rush into the changing room and pretty oneself up. Sadly we never had any female firemen – ermm firewoman so I never got to dash off to the changing room to make myself (even) prettier.

Another similarity between A&E nurses and ICU nurses is nothing grosses us out – plus our sense of humour would always stray to the really sick kind, graveyard humour. I think it was a protective reflex, nothing grosses out nurses or doctors. I’ve been out with a bunch of medical staff and their respective partners and will happily discuss wee, pooh, blood and guts and some intricate procedure I assisted the ICU staff with and then notice that the non-meds are turning green and off their food..  oh dear!

But there are a few differences between A&E and ICU, in A&E there’s a special phone and when that rings everyone stops what they’re doing and listens. It’s a direct line from Ambulance Control and it’s nearly always AC telling us of a Blue Light on the way in, the ETA and any details they have from the paramedics.

Another difference is that the A&E staff generally only ‘patch & dispatch’ as we say, patch patients up and dispatch them on to ICU/Surgery/Wards. So the time they have with patients is very limited and they don’t get to know patients in the same way we did on Intensive Care. As an aside, in the Medical School they have a department that incorporates Obstetrics, Genetics and Elderly and it’s referred to as the Hatch’em, Match’em’ Dispatch’em department! I think that would be an excellent title for a murder mystery book.

But by far the best difference between A&E and ICU is that occasionally A&E staff get to go on the Ambulance so they have insight into what the paramedics do. In reality it’s just an excuse for the paramedics to chat up and impress the nurses, they were always disappointed to see a male nurse join them… I have been out in a ‘blue light’ a few times. It’s fantastic! It’s like being in a snow plough, all the traffic in front of you parts like Moses and the Red Sea. I’m sure there’s a scene in Bruce Almighty like that, it’s the fastest time I’ve ever got from work to the other side of London.

During my time in A&E I learnt a few things that I thought I might share, these are not all mine but the medics out there amongst you will be able to relate to them.

  • Don’t tell the nurse you have a bad back and then have sex with your partner on the trolley behind the curtains.  Yup, coitus interruptus was interrupted by moi.
  • The phrases “I know what I’m doing” and “Hey, watch this!” is almost always followed by a trip to A&E
  • Never get into a road rage incident and go head to head with someone who has a spanner in his hand.
  • Never try to get away from a police dog, they are quicker and from what I have seen, have VERY sharp teeth.
  • Never allow your sex partner to push a screwdriver/wine bottle/apple/cork/banana/etc up your jacksie, and then tell the nursing staff you don’t know how that got in there. Remember, your rectum is an exit point really, and bowel perfs are NOT fun.
  • Never walk in front of your brother when he is practising his golf swing.
  • Don’t jump off a bridge into the river without first checking it’s more than one foot deep.
  • Never…NEVER…hide your weed in a toothbrush holder and stick it up your butt and think it’s a safe hiding place from the officers in a prison. It could get stuck! 
  • Never assume you are sterile just because you didn’t get your last 3 lovers pregnant.
  • If you are having an MRI done, we REALLY need to know about those “personal” piercings, because they will get ripped out by the magnetic pull.
  • Always wear safety goggles while playing paint ball/or checking out the paintball gun
  • Spermicidal foam tastes like hair shampoo (apparently).
  • Vaporub definitely won’t prolong your erection (and you’ll taste very bad!).
  • Do not assume you are “going thru the change” when you suddenly stop having a period when you are 43. Consider the fact that you might actually be pregnant!
  • Do not try to sandpaper off tattoos by yourself. Also do not use a sandblaster or scraper to do it with.
  • Insulin needles should not be shared by family members, especially for weeks at a time.
  • And finally, no matter how bowel obsessed you are, do not strip down naked in your back garden and have your husband (whom you met at a psych unit) give you an enema with a garden hose. Your neighbours will call the police and you will get a bowel perf and peritonitis, and you will be sent back to the psych ward where you met your husband in the first place.

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 15. Oh Baby..

During my previous career training as a nurse I had to work a few weeks on the Labour Ward, I absolutely loved it, probably because it was so intense and (excuse the pun) so hands on – or in this case hands in.

The Midwives were great and very down to earth and most of the mothers were great too, it’s a time of great excitement and beaming smiles – once baby had popped out of course! Most mothers were on their first or second births but occasionally the midwives would come across someone who’d been there more than a few times. One Sunday afternoon I was working with Margaret (name changed to protect the guilty!) and a mother came in straight from A&E (ER for our American friends), she was about to pop and we got all the equipment ready and asked the mum to remove her pants (obviously!). Mum asked Margaret did she recognise her and Margaret said no, not really – she wasn’t really paying attention trying to get everything ready but then when the mum had undressed and Margaret started to check how many centimetres she was dilated and had her fingers half way up her jacksie she suddenly said “Oh! NOW I know who you are!!”

My mouth fell open and I gave her that look, you know the one, the one that says “YOU recognise people, not by their faces, not by their voices but by looking at their jacksies?!?! …”   She realised what she had implied and tried backpedalling but it was too late – I was going to tell absolutely everyone in the coffee room that evening!

(But between thou and I, I wonder, if Margaret was ever called up to one of those police line ups and had to identify some crook, would she be asking for everyone to drop their pants or else she wouldn’t recognise them… ?)

I told that tale to one of my friends, he said he knows how she feels, he says there are some folk he only recognises by looking at their jacksie too – and he’s not a doctor..just a bad bad lad!

One weekend I had a mum with a big ornate gothic script “EDDIE” tattoo on the inside of her thigh and Eddie was there, holding her hand and doing all the right things. For almost 12 hours, we soothed, cajoled, encouraged and cheered on this lady. I brought Eddie into it: “Look at Eddie, he loves you and the baby so much, breathe with Eddie, keep going, Eddie, you hold her hand” blah, blah, blah.. 12 hours of sweat and tears, near exhaustion and trying my best to involve Eddie and make it a brilliant caring sharing experience for both of them..

Close to the end and I start to realise that something’s up, Eddie’s got more and more stony-faced and silent throughout the day..

He’s actually glaring at me now.

A thought strikes me, “Ummmm, is your name Eddie?”

With the most hateful glance, he grunts, “No!”


PS I probably should explain that at that point I had been in England for only two years and my accent was as thick as treacle, so when I asked him at the start ‘are you Eddie?’ he thought I asked ‘are you ready..?’ and said yes ..Doh.


bookmark_borderMay contain nuts – part three


It’s not common knowledge that most nurses tend to spend a lot of their working day in a slightly distorted reality field but it’s true, we see and get involved in things that probably looks quite odd from outside but is just another day for a nurse.

One day in A&E (ER to our American friends) I had this huge guy come in and he was writhing in pain, bright red face, creased over into a ball… the Sister in charge sighed and said “not you again Alec!” and asked me to take him to a cubicle. I helped him get on a trolley and he was pleading with me for some painkillers. I was young(ish!) and very naïve so I asked the oncall to come see him ASAP, the doc came in, took one look at him, swore and told him to sling his hook and get out and stop wasting our time, he wasn’t getting any drugs from us.. I was new there and didn’t know the score but this guy looked like he was in real agony and I was convinced there was indeed something wrong with him. He got really angry under all the pain, told me he wanted to die, left the department and walked out to the main road waiting for a car to come. A taxi came along and Alec threw himself in front of the car, the car pulled up easily as the road had speed humps. So Alec stood up and started shouting at the driver “come on you B*******…run me over!!” The driver was pissed and started beeping his horn at Alec but Alec just walked closer to the front of the car and kept on shouting “come on you B******do it! Are you chicken!!”.  More cars came along and Alec wouldn’t get off the road so I thought I’d better call the police as I knew there was trouble coming.

Alec was calling the driver all the names of the day and the driver was getting very pissed off and more and more cars were building up behind him honking their horns and cursing away at him. A small crowd was gathering when Alec started kicking the first car and then he grabbed the metal antenna and snapped it in half. At this point the driver got out and they engaged in fisticuffs and wrestled each other to the ground.

Fortunately the police arrived at this point and separated Alec from the driver but he was a big guy and it took six…yes SIX policemen to throw him into the back of their van, he went ballistic in the meat wagon and managed to smash his head against one of the seats, (at least that’s what the policeman told me!). He was bleeding furiously and thus the police had to carry him out, take him across the road and bring him, yup, you guess it, into our A&E.. Sister just groaned again, the policeman threw him onto a trolley and literally sat on him whilst they handcuffed him to the frame and the sister tried to attend to his wound. He was like a bucking broncho at this point, even with six policemen he was still giving them trouble but Sister eventually got him stitched up and the police carted him off to the cells.

Two weeks later he was back in – looking as right as rain – and asking for more painkillers.. this time it was my turn to groan..

I learnt many lessons in that A&E, such as;

If you’re a patient then don’t waste your time asking the A&E staff if anyone has any weed…trust me, we don’t.

Never take your goldfish out of the bowl and play with it on your tummy because it may “occidentally” swim up your vagina.

Make sure your husband and boyfriend don’t turn up at the labour ward at the same time.

If a patient arrives at A&E with a suitcase send them away, it’s not a friggin hotel you know..

Don’t stick your penis in a vacuum cleaner hose because your friends at school told you it was next best thing if you couldn’t get a girl;

(a) it will buy you a trip to A&E and (b) it will hurt like hell.

And finally, “the little white one” and “the one for my heart” are the worlds two most common medications.

bookmark_borderThe Pizza Dilemma

TombStone? A not so subtle hint.

When I worked as a nurse on ICU part of the job included patient education with regards towards a healthier life, so we’d try educating patients about giving up alcohol and smoking, explaining the statistics about quality and length of life. A common response back from the patients was “it’s not that you actually live longer – it just seems it, you suck all the joy out of life, no fags, no drink…of course your life is going to seem longer.. a LOT bleeding longer!”

I have some sympathy with my ex-patients, you see, I’ve been trying to eat healthy recently, trying to cut down on sugars and fats; no more cakes, biscuits, pizza, chips, pies etc and now I know just how my patients felt, it’s not like I’m going to live longer…it just seems like it…a long dreary existence… kill me now.

You see, culturally, I come from the land that considers eating five different coloured M&M’s as part of your ‘five a day’, a land that has taken Nutella to it’s heart (literally), a land than considers dipping Mars bars in batter and deep frying them in lard a healthy snack, a land that considers anything with the word ‘die’ in it to be avoided…like diet and dieticians.

So, I’ve decided to do a bit of research and have come up with a scientifically valid diet, it’s the ice-cream diet, also known as the Gelato diet. You see, ask any scientist about calories and heat and they will tell you quite seriously that it takes 1 calorie to heat 1 gram of water 1 degree centigrade. Therefore, if you eat ice-cream or Gelato then your body will warm it up to body temperature and the only source of calories is in your fat stores so your will use up calories.

Let’s explore this a bit further,  if you consume 100g of ice-cream then for your body to bring that from 0.0C  to body temperature of 37C then that’s 100g times 32C which equals 3,200 calories used to raise your ice-cream to body temperature. Now, the average portion of ice-cream is probably closer to 200g rather than 100g so that’s 6,400 calories used up but of course there are sugars etc in ice-cream and on average you are talking about 1,200 calories but we’ll say that on balance, with every average portion of ice-cream you will use up roughly 5,000 calories.

This works equally as well with cold beer, if you go out drinking every evening then you will lose weight. There’s roughly 16 fluid ounces to a pint and if you do the maths then you lose roughly 1,000 calories with each ounce as long as it’s chilled and served from a frosted glass, so in a pint of beer you actually lose 15,000 calories allowing for the calories already in the beer.

Sadly this diet only works with foods and liquids colder than your body, it doesn’t work for pizza which is usually served above body temperature – except obviously during the next morning when you find some left over pizza in the carton and then it’s healthy as it’s cooler than body temperature.  But there is a solution to the pizza dilemma, you see, we all like to go out and eat pizza but don’t want to wait until the morning to eat vast quantities of cold pizza so the obvious solution is to either drink lots of beer with your (hot) pizza and eat lots of ice-cream afterwards. Dilemma solved. My diet starts tomorrow. I wonder if I’ll get the Nobel Prize for this?

bookmark_borderTo pee or not to pee, that is the question

Idiots guide.

Hmmmm know that point in your existence, the point just before you’re born and God says to you “OK my little spirit being, it’s time to choose, what do you want to be in this life, a man or a woman, decide, it’s totally up to you” and I obviously choose to be a man and I can remember God saying “are you sure, after all, woman get to bring life into this world, they love so much more and so deeply, they have that special bond with their children and then there’s the added bonus of multiple orgasms….” and despite the attraction of ALL that I’m still glad I choose to be a man because I couldn’t cope with being preggers for nine months. I know this with certainty because I had a really nasty risotto the other day at lunchtime and spent the rest of the day feeling bloated, really bloated! It was awful, I was so full of gas I thought I was going to burst and if that’s what it’s like to be pregnant then you woman are more than welcome to it. If a man had to give birth then trust me, the human race would have died out long long ago, either that or artificial wombs would have been invented way before the steam engine.

When I did my nurse training I spent a few months on the Labour ward and had a fantastic time, I loved it but that’s because I was a man and had absolutely no insight into just how effing uncomfortable being pregnant really is. I used to say to my expectant mother’s when they came into the Labour room writhing in agony, “Hello, I’m dilated to meet you, I’m at your cervix”. It’s a wonder I wasn’t kicked out but at least it broke the ice (and maybe broke the waters too as they giggled). One reads about how wonderful being pregnant is and how some woman ‘glow’, in two months of working on the Labour ward I never saw anyone ‘glow’ except maybe in rage, usually at the poor unfortunate husband, if I had a nickel for every time I heard “you’re never coming near me EVER again!” then I’d be a rich man.

Of course I’m not equating one day of feeling really bloated with being pregnant for nine months (but being a pathetic man I will try my best), however it was interesting that I daren’t cough or sneeze for fear of peeing myself.  If someone had a knitting needle I would have quite happily allowed them to stick it in my tum and let all that gas out. Poor poor me. It reminded me of this.

When I was a kid and living in Conlig, Northern Ireland, the farmer up the road cut one of the fields of grass and left the cuttings in the field. There were a few mangy horses in the next field and somehow one of them managed to get into the freshly cut field and feasted on the large clumps of cut grass. The next day when we were coming home from school we noticed that the horse was laying on its side and looking very bloated, fit to burst in fact. I told the owner, he sighed and called the vet. The vet came, regarded the horse for a minute and told the owner that the horse had obviously been gorging on the grass next door and that a horse’s digestion system is not able to cope with large quantities of grass all at once so it was fermenting and producing copious amounts of gas. He went back to his van, retrieved a large metal knitting needle from a black bag and punctured the horse’s abdomen with it.  A crowd of us kids had gathered around as between thou and I this was the most exciting thing to ever happen in Conlig (and probably still is) and as the gas escaped from the horse’s abdomen every kid downwind immediately turned green and ran away, the stench was awful. The owner and vet just laughed but the horse got up almost immediately and obviously felt a large sense of relief as he went skipping off around the field.

That little tale reminds me of something else. When I was working in A&E (ER) as a student I had a bloke come in with a distended abdomen. He hadn’t had a pee for a number of days and an x-ray showed that his bladder was filled and distended massively. It was very obvious that his prostate was stuffed and blocking off his ureter completely and he would need a TURP (transurethral resection of prostate) but in the acute phase he needed to pee and the quickest way to achieve that was to insert a foley catheter. This man was in agony, complete agony which wasn’t helped by him spending the previous evening drinking pints at a stag party, his bladder was almost backed up into his kidneys and I lay him on the trolley to insert the catheter. BUT here’s the thing and if you are a woman you are going to have to take my word for this, if you are a nurse about to insert a foley catheter into any guy who has a blocked ureter, trust me, you can ask for his wallet, his car keys, even his house and he will without hesitation hand them over to you because he is in so much agony. Really, seriously, he would sign a blank cheque if you asked him and once that catheter is in and the pressure is off his bladder he is always as grateful as hell.

Reading that now, I’m not so sure I choose wisely at birth to be a man…oooeerrr

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, Part 11

The old tricks are the best, we used to do this with student nurses.

During the Vietnam War Michael Herr wrote in Dispatches “war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror”. I initially thought he was talking about American Football but I know how he feels, because I’ve worked in theatres and Intensive Care.

In my previous career as a nurse I had to spend about two months working in theatres (or OR as our American cousins call it) alongside some not very bright surgeons. After a few weeks working (or more accurately standing still with my arms at the same length all day watching the clock go in reverse) I realised there were some phrases that one should listen out for, for example;

Wait a minute, if this is his liver, then what’s that?
Everybody stand back! I lost my contact lens!
What’s this doing here?
Am I in the right spot, ’cause I don’t think that should be here… (why am I thinking G-Spot suddenly?)
“Hmmm, well that’s interesting” during a C-Section

but the worse one we all dreaded was ‘FIRE! FIRE! Everyone get out!’ I have actually experienced that one plus a few power failures and you have no idea just how transforming that is to the assembled team, suddenly you stop daydreaming about last night’s (mis)adventures and just like a warzone, everyone moves like greased lightning under those circumstances, not to get out of theatre ASAP but to get the patient off all the support machines and keep him/her alive whilst you push the operating table out of the theatre. It’s all hands on deck literally and when I was working in the National Heart & Lung institute in central London I watched a cardiac surgeon squeeze a patient’s heart manually whilst we pushed the table into the neighbouring safe zone.

I’m not sure how it works in normal business’s but in hospitals the idea of moving patients out into the street is a no-no, usually you have to shove the patients into the next ward and then the plan is to keep moving them if that area becomes at risk. Trying to get a patient down a set of stairs on a hospital bed is not easy. However, in 10 years of ICU nursing I had seen an equally miraculous transformation in patients who normally required two nurses to help them get into a bedside chair but when the fire alarm goes off then they can do the 100m sprint in Olympic time.

What is not common knowledge is that in a fire emergency there is the potential to leave about half of your patents behind. On the face of it that seems callous but there is a logic to it, you see, in an average UK Intensive Care about 50% of your patients will be sedated and on ventilators. Therefore in the situation of an ICU filling up with smoke and fumes (from a distant fire) you triage your patients and the ones sedated and on ventilators are not going to suffocate from fumes as they are on piped O2. The ICU could be filled with thick black smoke but they would still be breathing clean air so you’d leave those ones behind and drag – sometimes literally – the patients that are awake and breathing room air.  I’ve never had to actually do that but every time a fire alarm went off then I automatically figured out if my patient should stay or go. Well.. I say ‘I’ because practically every female nurse (and some of the male ones) did what they always did when they knew Firemen (or Policemen) were coming to the Unit, they ran into the changing rooms and put on some lippy and fixed their hair, think it was something to do with the uniforms..

The normal routine on any ICU is for the ICU Medics to take primary irresponsibility for the patient but various teams (or ‘firms’ as they are called) would come around and advise on specialist treatment; Surgery, Orthopaedics, Obs & Gyna, etc but on ICU we had a running joke on how we identified various teams;

Q: How can you tell what type of physician caught the elevator door just as it was closing?

A: If they put in their hand, they are a medic…if they put in their head, they are a surgeon.

Of course we nurses liked to mess around and take the piss out of everyone but especially doctors, this story did the rounds when I was working with some very posh docs in Harley Street.

Three doctors and three nurses are travelling by train to a conference. At the station, the three doctors each buy tickets and watch as the three nurses buy only a single ticket. “How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?” asks a doctor.

“Watch and you’ll see,” answered a nurse. They all board the train. The doctors take their respective seats but all three nurses cram into a restroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, “Ticket, please.”

The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on. The doctors saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the doctors decide to copy the nurses on the return trip and save some money (being clever with money, and all that). When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the nurses don’t buy a ticket at all. “How are you going to travel without a ticket?” says one perplexed doctor.

“Watch and you’ll see,” answered a nurse. When they board the train the three doctors cram into a restroom and the three nurses cram into another one nearby. The train departs. Shortly afterward, one of the nurses leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the doctors are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, Ticket, please.”

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron; Part Six

I'm going back to sign language. Less mistakes.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that it’s not a good idea to call Native Americans ‘Red Indians’ when visiting the states, not unless you want everyone to drop to the floor! Being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, the term was used every weekend at the local flea-pit (Queen’s cinema) as the cowboys fought the redskins. It’s easy to cause unintentional offence with obsolete terminology,  and especially confusing when there’s an American football team named the Washington Redskins, and the Redskins serve as the mascot of Red Mesa High School on the Navajo Reservation in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, go figure.

During my nurse training it was perfectly normal to refer to the Elderly Care wards as the Gerry’s ward – as in Geriatrics – and this was to our tutors. Now I am pretty sure Gerry’s is out and I suspect even Elderly Care is frowned upon, I think it’s referred to Care of the Aged now and during training terms like physically handicapped and mentally handicapped was perfectly acceptable but now handicap is only used during golfing conversations and the term disabled or disadvantaged is preferred.

I was talking to an American member of staff today and mentioned the ‘red’ faux pas to her and she agreed that if she hadn’t been sitting down then she would have fallen over if I used that term in normal conversation, however I went from one faux pas straight into another because I mentioned that her fringe needs trimmed and she looked at me quite shocked, apparently whilst fringe is a common term here in Europe, it’s called ‘bangs’ in America, where she comes from to have your fringe trimmed means something much more personal. Oops!

We all know over here that fag is a cigarette but means something completely different across the pond and beaver is a small water dwelling damn building forest animal – at least in this country but can mean your butt across the pond, fanny here is considered vulgar and not suitable for polite company but not considered that racey across the water. However, during my twenties in Northern Ireland and then in London we had terms, that as young lads we used all the time without a second thought.

Vincent Van Gogh – Rhyming slang for ‘cough’.  As in ‘That’s a nasty Vincent you’ve got there’. As a digression, we had a tutor at school called Mrs Chesnokov and whenever she was mentioned in conversation it was de rigueur to skip her name but to quickly touch your chest then knee and then cough; chest-knee-cough..  geddit?

Salad dodger – an extremely overweight person. Sometimes we would also say busted sofa – an overweight woman wearing a tight dress/trousers. As another digression, I once sat on a bus with my very young son only to be mortified as he said in a very loud voice whilst pointing to the lady sitting in front of us, ‘Daddy, that ladies very fat, isn’t she?’.  The young couple sitting behind us had to get off because for the next five minutes they tried and tried valiantly to supress their laugher before finally giving in to it.  So did the rest of the bus.

OK OK digression #2, when I was at Secondary school we had a tubby chap in our class called George Burns and being the horrible cruel kids that we were, his nickname was ‘Fat Burns’ and loved our cleverness as not only was he obviously fat but because, of course that fat does actually burn.

Aeroplane blond – this is a nursing term and no, it’s not about dumb blonde’s, it’s a phenomena one got used to seeing, especially in A&E (ER) Units, it’s a reference to an attractive woman who has dyed her hair but still has a black box.  As yet another digression, we once had an unconscious patient in A&E who had dyed her pubes green and had a tattoo ‘Come Lie On The Grass’ above it.  She needed to be prepped for emergency surgery so one of the nurses shaved her and wrote in ink above the tattoo ‘sorry, we had to mow the lawn’.

Pearl Harbour – cold weather. Rhyming slang.  “It’s a bit Pearl Harbour out there!”. Meaning it’s a bit nippy out there or there’s a nip in the air. This comes from the well-known surprise attack by Japanese planes on the American port in Hawaii in 1941. We would also say ‘it’s brass monkey weather out there’ meaning it would freeze the balls off a brass monkey, I had absolutely no idea where that came from but if you wish to be educated then click here.

Mork and Mindy – Rhyming slang for ‘windy’, i.e. “It’s a little bit Mork and Mindy today, innit?”. This isn’t actually a reference to the weather outside but this expression is always accompanied with a grin as you flap your hands around your rear end.  Speaking of which, I was reading a blog  (yes, mine actually) about life’s most embarrassing moments and this girl wrote that when in sixth form her teacher asked if anyone could do something unusual…like wiggle their ears or somersault…so this 16yr old said she could do a cartwheel. The teacher thought that’s a good trick so the entire class pushed all their desks back and she stood up to do her cartwheel, unfortunately as she was in the middle of it two things happened simultaneously

1) Her skirt fell down and everyone could see her awful Bridget Jones knickers..

2) She farted…REALLY LOUDLY

The entire class fell to the floor laughing and she was humiliated.. even the teacher laughed…

She left shortly after that and became an axe murderer..

Blouse Bunnies – you can probably figure this one out from the following totally true story. Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he’d just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut, and bruised, and he’s walking with a limp.
‘What happened to you?’ asks Sean, the bartender.
‘Micheal O’Connor and me had a fight,’ says Paddy.
‘That little O’Connor,’ says Sean, ‘He couldn’t do that to you, he must have had something in his hand.’
‘That he did,’ says Paddy,’a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin’ he gave me with it.’
‘Well,’ says Sean, ‘you should have defended yourself. Didn’t you have something in your hand?’
That I did,’ said Paddy, ‘Mrs. O’Connor’s breast, and a thing of beauty it was; but useless in a fight.’

Five Finger Discount – to steal something. Another completely true story. It’s Saint Patrick’s day and an armed hooded robber bursts into the Bank of Ireland and forces the tellers to load a sack full of cash. On his way out the door with the loot one brave Irish customer grabs the hood and pulls it off revealing the robber’s face. The Robber Shoots the Guy Without Hesitation!

He then looks around the bank to see if anyone else has seen him. One of the tellers is looking straight at him and the robber walks over and calmly shoots him also. Everyone by now is very scared and looking down at the floor. Did anyone else see my face?’ screams the robber.

There is a few moments of silence then one elderly Irish lady, looking down, tentatively raises her hand and says, ‘I think me husband may have caught a glimpse.’

bookmark_borderBreaking The Seal.

I have never been a big drinker but between the ages of 20 and 25 all my friends would go down to the Castle Arms and get completely smashed after work.  I’m aware this perpetuates the stereotype of the Irish being big drinkers but if you lived in a country where it was cold and rained almost constantly then that’s how you’d spend your evenings too, anyway there’s only a limited  amount of times one can trudge through the delights of Tullymore Forest and The Giants Causeway before the attraction wears off.

I’ve never taken to beer, I’ve tried but I actual detest it, especially Guinness and I know I’m in danger of having my passport revoked penning that but I’ve always done my own thing so I was always designated driver. Most weekends I would happily watch the transformation of my friends from quiet introverted geeks into loud rowdy morons and then into ‘I love you, you are my best-est friend ever’ stage followed by falling asleep in mid sentence and resting their head on the table amongst all the empty pint glasses and full ashtrays.

OK, I know this dwells on toilet habits somewhat but there is a point. What I couldn’t understand for a few years was how the guys could drink pint after pint and not go to the toilet, the general pattern was that they would drink until about 10pm and then go to the loo but then go frequently after that.  They would have consumed anything between four and eight pints from 6pm to 10pm and not go once. I thought they all had cast iron bladders, hollow legs or somehow auto-magically plugged into the Castle Arms plumbing as I had no idea where that volume of fluid was going. However, I was talking to Carl one evening about this and he explained what happens when you’re a heavy drinker. You can drink and drink and drink and not feel the urge to go but there comes a point when you just have to and then after that you go regularly and that’s termed ‘breaking the seal’, it’s like the dam has finally burst and all the water pours out.

I know this seems somewhat convoluted – but I was reminded of that conversation the other day. In my group of friends and colleagues for the last 25 years no-one has got sick and suffered any major health problems but since turning 50 in February I know of three folk who are seriously unwell, it’s like someone ‘broke the seal’ and now I have a flood (ouch) of friends not well and the term ‘grave illness’ seems ironically appropriate.

During the first 25 years of my life death and tragedy was a common occurrence and I lost friends and colleagues due to The Troubles in Northern Ireland, we called it Northern Beirut with good reason and that was part and parcel of growing up – at least in Northern Ireland, I imagine it was probably the same growing up with the gangland violence in parts of New York City during the same era, so the first 25 years of my life was marked with tragedy, some involving very close friends.

However, during the last 25 years it’s been all quiet on the western front  and the only tragedy I’ve had to deal with was when I worked on Intensive Care and although death and tragedy was a common occurrence there it was not friends and colleagues of mine, it wasn’t personal, the nature of the job kind’a insulated you from the worse feelings because you have to come in next morning and start all over again with someone else. However, that was the last 25 years, now it feels like someone has broken the seal and in my extended group of friends and people I’ve had dealings with in the past suddenly there is more and more tragedy occurring and it’s a bit of a shock.

I wrote in a previous blog posting about Facebook and how I was sad that it doesn’t extend into Heaven, I think it would be quite nice to be able to check up on a few friends when they pass over and make sure they are okay..

bookmark_borderMoney versus love?

eee-me meeny miny mo..

You’re probably familiar with these lyrics;

Can’t buy me love, love
Can’t buy me love
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
‘Cause I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love

Credited to Lennon/McCartney

Paul McCartney stated that “The idea behind this song was that all these material possessions are all very well, but they won’t buy me what I really want.” but I wonder if that’s really true these days – or ever has been.

This is not an easy subject to blog about without causing some folk to get hot under the collar but I blogged a while back about my Speed Dating evening and how practically everyone there was only interested in my earning potential but not my loving potential. One of my friends says she doesn’t believe in true love and shooting stars, only in shoes and cars – which saves me having to figure out if she’s dating material..

When I worked in Northern Ireland I had a well paid job, house/car etc and it was interesting that the higher up I went in the food chain (literally as it was a massive supermarket) then the more attention I got from certain woman and I ponder on this quite a lot these days. I overheard a gaggle of my staff once describe me as ‘a good catch’ and I wasn’t standing anywhere near the Fish Dept at the time.

When I left the rat race and went into low paid Nursing then suddenly I became less desirable, my dance card emptied and I wonder how it goes, when I was senior management I had no problems getting a dance but once I went into nursing then that all stopped because of course all nurses suffer from white coat syndrome and will only date doctors. And when I started dating again a few years ago I was disappointed to met up with woman who made it obvious they were only going to date someone with lots of funds. And of course it works the other way around too, friends moan at me about men that will only date young fit woman and they don’t seem to be interested in the loving potential of someone 50+.

This is of course, all generalisations but I can only quote from personal experience, there ‘are’ woman out there in dating land that don’t give a shit about how much I earn but they tend to keep themselves well hidden, and I wonder does it all change as you get older and established, when I was in my 20 and 30’s it seemed to me that most partners were viewing me in a ‘will he provide for a family and make a good father’ attitude but now I’m 50 I wonder does any of that matter as most folk this age are sorted.. it was like love with conditions but when your cat/dog/kids love you they do it without conditions and I wonder how that change comes about…

Paul McCartney was to later comment: “It should have been ‘Can Buy Me Love’ ” when reflecting on the perks that money and fame had brought him, when “Can’t Buy Me Love” went to number one (4 April 1964), the entire top five of the Hot 100 was by the Beatles, the next positions being filled by “Twist and Shout”, “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me,” respectively. No other act has held the top five spots simultaneously. The expression we have at home is he’s well worth rubbing up against (think of a pussycat), and I know there are more than a few gold diggers out there happy to help Paul spend his money but I can see where he is coming from, money can buy you love it seems but just not the sort you might want, I can go buy a puppy and I’m pretty sure after a few weeks I’ll get all the puppy love anyone could ask for but what about non-canine love? (I know a few of you are thinking why on earth would I need any other sort of love).

He probably has a large (pay) packet..

A while back I blogged about Crystal Harris (aged 25) and her engagement to Hugh Hefner (aged 85) and their pending nuptials, I really wanted to ask Crystal the following question “what was it that first attracted you to the multi-millionaire Hugh Hefner?” but it seems that there is hope for me after all as Crystal broke off the engagement five days before the wedding. Not like I want to marry Crystal Harris but it’s good to see that even being a multi-millionaire can’t buy you love – or the illusion of it.

I wonder a lot about this these days for various reasons, I can see the change in attitudes from dates now I am 50, there is much less ‘sizing up’ these days and much more willingness to check out a man’s loving potential as opposed to his financial potential and I wonder will that get better and better as the years pass, my mother Doris waited until she was 81 before she settled on the man who was going to give her true love – unlike a previous suitor who was obviously only interested in her land but I’m kind’a keen to not wait until I’m 81 before finding true love.

Perhaps I ought to start doing the National Lottery 😉

Or perhaps not.