Sunday, 19 October 2014

Seen in A&E

We do three or four twelve hour shifts a week, and we see EVERYTHING.
  • A nurse covered in white splashes of plaster of paris.
  • A patient being kept nil-by-mouth before going to theatre for emergency surgery, trying to sneak a swig of beer from a can in his bag.
  • A bike helmet, crushed like an eggshell.
  • A floor awash with urine.
  • Doctors and paramedics in bright orange helicopter jumpsuits.
  • Relatives crying and hugging each other.
  • A passport drenched in blood.
  • Porters pushing trolleys around with incredible skill.  How do they never hit anything?
  • Nurses and doctors crowded around the radiographer, who is looking at a patient's brain scan.
  • Nervous looking medical students.
  • People practising walking down the corridors with crutches.
  • A linen skip full of discarded red ambulance blankets.
  • A nurse talking to a patient about cupcake recipes as she puts a needle in his vein to take blood.
  • A man handcuffed to a trolley, escorted everywhere by two tall policemen with crackling radios. 
  • Many, many people whose problems will be solved by going home, taking a paracetamol, and seeing their GP next week.
The new (blue) hospital behind the  old (now a listed building) #london #londonlove #rlh #whitechapel #nofilter
The new, blue, hospital behind the old one

Friday, 17 October 2014

Run Report - motivation

Motivational messages for runners in the Olympic Park

A friend sent me an email last week, asking if I would write about how I became a runner.  I thought about her request a great deal - mainly while I was out running - and decided that the starting to run story was quite ordinary, but the more interesting issue has become how and why I continued to run.  I feel very strongly that to call yourself 'A Runner' you don't have to be fast, or even improving, you just have to go running regularly.

I started running because Olivia announced that she wanted to do a Race for Life and raise some money for Cancer Research.  We did the very popular NHS Couch to 5K programme and at the end of the 9 weeks, we did our Race for Life in Cambridge in July 2013.

At this point Olivia stopped running regularly, but I carried on.  The reason that I am still running fifteen months later is quite simply that I enjoy it.  However, enjoying running is in itself a complex business - I enjoy running for so many, varied reasons.  
  • I have made some wonderful friends through running - at my local parkrun, and now at my running club
  • I relish being fit enough to run up the escalators on the tube.
  • I love how all I need to do to stay fit is go out for a run for about 30 minutes three times a week.  It doesn't require a great deal of time commitment.
  • I like having bare legs and wearing shorts.
  • I love my post-run oat and banana milkshake.
  • I love being outside.
  • I adore the euphoria that comes from running faster or further than I thought was possible.  It doesn't happen very often, but it's all the sweeter for that.
  • I appreciate the time to myself.
  • I like how I can just run straight from my front door if I want to.  Sometimes I drive out to the more remote parts of Epping Forest, or cycle over to the Olympic Park to run, but if I can't be bothered I can still run from my front door and enjoy being outside in the local parks.
  • I relish the rituals that come with running: setting the playlist on my iPod if I am running by myself, making sure my shoes are laced tightly, tying up my hair, walking to warm up, stretching afterwards (sometimes I forget to do this, I am so eager for a sit down and then a nice long bath).
  • I love the energy it gives me.
  • I love how easy it is.  It is not easy to run fast, or run efficiently, but just changing into running kit, pulling on my shoes, and going for a run is easy.  
The fact that I continue to go running even when I'm tired or not in the mood is why I feel happy calling myself a runner.  Running has become a part of what I do now - like cooking, sewing or reading - and it became a part of what I do because I just went outside and ran. I enjoyed it, and so I kept on running.

Just ran my fastest 5k ever (27:36). Channeling my inner Jo Pavey. Yeehah! #running #pb #qeop
The euphoria (and astonishment) after finishing a 5k run with a new pb this week
My race number at a club event in September
Back home after a run - where's my milkshake?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Seen on the bus

Number W15 - Leyton to Hackney
  • A extremely portly man, snoring so loudly that even the people wearing headphones could hear him.
  • A teenage girl, taking her little brother to primary school, quietly reading out loud to him as he sits on her lap. 
  • A tall man, with a rakish cut over one eyebrow, carrying a spade.
  • An elegant lady with a bright pink scarf knotted jauntily around her throat, who sits very still with her eyes shut.
  • A mother with five swarming children all in primary school uniform who like to jump off the seats and swing from the poles.
  • A man with a pair of women's opaque black tights on his head.
  • A boy and his Dad trying to do maths homework together.
  • A rainbow of chattering teenagers, in the various brightly coloured blazers of Hackney's high schools and academies.  At least two local schools require their pupils to wear vivid purple blazers and ties.

Homework on the bus
Two heads are better than one - maths homework on the bus

The man in the seat in front of me was wearing a pair of women's opaque tights on his head #onlyinhackney #bus #London
Tights on head

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The new normal

I am back at work; charging so very fast towards mid-December when I will qualify.

It is good to be working again, and to feel useful and skilled, but I'd forgotten how busy and chaotic everything can seem when I am working.  I am trying to remember to use my commute as a way of easing in and out of the working day. 

These past three weeks, I've been working in Hackney - very close to home.  I commute by bus, which is far more frustrating and unreliable than taking the tube, but has more interesting views.

Reflections. It was cold this morning. #london #reflections #window #hackney

Welcome to Leyton #london #leyton #home #sky

7:20am - walking to the bus stop. A perfect crisp, sunny autumn morning. #london #nofilter #sky

Seen from the bus: lovely houses along the canal at Hackney Marshes #hackney #london #sky

The bin man has lost his gloves #hackney #london #lost

A very elegant woman in a magnificent green pashmina, with the velodrome in the background. #onthebus #london #joysofcommuting

Oh bus, where art thou? #joysofcommuting #london #leyton #bus #sky

Despite a ban on bikes on the buses, the kind bus driver picked up a cyclist who'd had an accident. She's okay - just a nasty gash to her leg - but the bike has a broken chain. Luckily Hackney has plenty of bike repair shops as well as a hospital. #joysof  

I'm tired, energised, busy, constantly carrying around a heavy bag of books and clothes, losing track of which day it is, spritzing hairspray on my up do, texting the children to remind them to do their chores, feeling full of purpose...and also starting to feel a little bit as though this is the new normal.  And this is A Good Thing.  

Friday, 5 September 2014

Back to it

These days I don't feel as bereft as I used to when the children go back to school in September.  The silence in the house is still deafening, and I miss their wild enthusiasms and crazy logic spinning through my day, but these days they really need to get stuck back into school by the time September comes around - and more importantly they want to get back to it too.  

Olivia has left primary school and is now at high school with Cam, which they are both very pleased about.  I am delighted too because the days of the school run have finally come to an end.  To celebrate, I have waved them off to school each morning this week still in my pyjamas - standing on the doorstep, with a cup of coffee in my hand, as I watch them walk up the road together.  Utter luxury.

"Cam, why are you so tall?" #backtoschool

In one more week I go back to work too.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I have just fourteen more weeks of placement, and then I will be qualified - so exciting.  Yesterday, my parents-in-law sent me these tiny little nurse figurines to mark the final stage of my training.  They are sitting by my desk, reminding me of everything that is still to come.

A wonderful, surprise present from my lovely in-laws @turnedupto11 and @jmnewmalden - three perfect, tiny vintage nurse figurines.  I love them.  The Sister in the middle has a particularly realistic pose - her ward would be very well run! #nurses #figuri          

Saturday, 30 August 2014

10 things

  • Graham and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  We went camping again - and Olivia insisted on doing a photo shoot of us snuggling up on a bench together.  She took close to 400 photos, just by holding the button down on my phone camera and telling us to smile.  There was just one I liked.  We took an anniversary selfie instead, which I am much happier with.  Sorry, Olivia!
 ...and a more formal, posed anniversary picture (by Livvy) #anniversaryAnniversary selfie #anniversary
  • The children and I went to Brick Lane, ate pakoras in the sunshine as we wandered around, and came home with a huge bag of bagels for the weekend.
 Eating pakoras, walking down Brick Lane in the sunshine #london #summerClever me for buying such a huge bag when I was in Brick Lane yesterday #bagelsallweekend
  • Cam likes his bagels with kippers for breakfast.  I like mine with avocado.
 A Brick Lane bagel, and a perfectly ripe avocado. The breakfast of champions (I hope - am off to parkrun shortly) #breakfast #avo #bagel #weekend
  • I did my first parkrun in my new running club t-shirt this morning.  Rumours that I chose this club because I find the shade of blue on their shirt particularly pleasing, are entirely false.
    My first run wearing my new running club t-shirt! Another fast-ish parkrun; my times are coming back down again  #running #etonmanorac #parkrun
  • We have a new dishwasher.  It is so quiet, it purrs.
  • Olivia sewed herself a top.  This is the first time she has done any dressmaking, and I was so impressed with the results.  She did everything herself, and all I did was explain some unfamiliar terms on the pattern.  The pattern is the Oliver + S Ice Cream Dress/Top, in the age 12 size.  It comes out quite short on her - she is a couple of months shy of turning 12, but is very tall.  She is keen to make another, and add a few centimetres onto the length.
  • I did some dressmaking too, and made myself a new dress - another Lisette Portfolio dress.  It has a seagull ribbon trim on the hem, which I bought in Whitby, and contrast fabric inside the pockets.  It may be my most favourite dress I've ever made for myself - or it may just be that whatever I've made most recently is my favourite.
 New dress finished! Ready to go camping in the morning now. The pattern is the Lisette portfolio dress (Simplicity 2245) #dressmaking #sewing #dress #handmade #pattern
  • I am keen to make more clothes while I am still on my long summer holiday.  Perhaps the Lisette Diplomat Dress, which I have the pattern for, but have not yet made.  Or maybe this Everyday Skirt?
  • My sister and her two small girls came for a visit.  The littlest cousin was completely unfazed by the two big teenagers thrusting their cameras at her every time she smiled, did something cute, or moved.
 Rosetta gets papped
  • I made 22 raspberry madeleines yesterday afternoon.  There are only five left this afternoon.
     22 raspberry madeleines. Utterly delicious. Took me less than 5 mins to make and just 9 mins to bake. Very satisfying. #baking #cake #madeleines #raspberry

Friday, 22 August 2014

Run report - a running club

Finishing an early morning run - red face clashing nicely with my orange t-shirt
Joining a running club is something I've been mulling over for about six months.  The running magazine I read (Women's Running - do you read it? I am a big fan) frequently tells me that joining a running club would be: 
  • good for my running, 
  • good for my social life, and 
  • not at all intimidating.  
To be honest, I've been a little sceptical about those last two points.  The mere phrase 'running club' is pretty intimidating.  But Graham is also a member of a local running club, as are many of my friends at Hackney Marshes parkrun, and they tell me the same thing.

One of the major factors that put me off club running, was the commitment: I work full time, I work antisocial shift patterns, and I have plenty of other things I need to fit into my life.  Was joining a running club trying to fit too much in?  Would they expect me to be on committees and doing races every other weekend?  Again, Graham and other running friends assured me not.

The running club closest to where we live is Eton Manor Athletics Club - a 101 year old club, with a permanent clubhouse in a large, picturesque park, just a ten minute walk away from our house.  It has the added benefit of not being the same club that Graham belongs to - he is so much faster and fitter than me, and I didn't want to join somewhere where I might always be known as 'Graham's slower wife'!  When I looked at Eton Manor AC's training schedule, I saw that they train on three evenings during the week, as well as organise weekend group runs - so even with my unpredictable shifts, I should surely be able to manage to go along once a week? 

And still I dithered.  I've been running for just over a year now, and yet I still feel like a bit of an imposter most of the time.  Am I a real runner?  Well, a real runner is just someone who runs regularly, so of course I am.  I also worried that a running club would be be made up of super-fast young people, full of disdain for my 28 minute 5k time.  This of course, was ridiculous.  I know from going to parkrun every weekend, that running is actually an incredibly inclusive sport - where elite runners cheer on the beginners, beginners can run alongside people who've been running for decades, and everyone, aged from 7 to 87, is impressed with everyone else's time and effort.  

Last night I decided to put aside my uncharacteristic nervousness and give club running a go.  I went along to Eton Manor AC, for their weekly interval training session.  Right from the minute I turned up, everybody was so very welcoming and friendly.  They asked me about my running experiences, were impressed that I go to parkrun every Saturday, reassured me that the club was full of runners of many different abilities and speeds, and generally put me at my ease.

We ran in a big pack through the local parks to Walthamstow Marshes, chatting as we ran.  This was a very new experience for me as I generally do all my running by myself, listening to music on headphones.  Surprisingly I found I could chat and run at the same time though.  Once at the marshes, we found a straight, paved path and started interval training: two minutes running hard (the guide for 'hard' was at your fastest 10k pace, but as I don't run 10ks I tried to run at my hardest parkrun, 5k pace) followed by one minute walking or slow jogging (I walked - as did most people).  The first two minutes felt like the longest two minutes I'd ever run - it seemed to go on forever!  But after that I got used to it, and managed absolutely fine.  The nice thing about interval training is that everybody gets to run at the pace which is 'hard' for them, and yet as we were running back and forth along the same straight piece of track, you always had somebody in your sights and felt very much a part of the club.  We did this for 30 minutes, before jogging back together to the clubhouse for tea and biscuits and more chat.  

Someone told me at the end that we'd run 8k altogether - which is by far the furthest I have ever managed.  I've only run further than 5k once or twice before.  I couldn't believe what I had achieved - a longer distance than I had ever run before, and at a harder pace than I would ever do by myself.  I was so pleased!  This, ultimately, is why I will definitely be joining Eton Manor AC and incorporating a club run into my life once a week.  I was on such a high when I finished.  Running with a club will improve my running like nothing else, and push me to do more.  But in a friendly, sociable and surprisingly uncompetetive environment.

What about you?  Would you join a sports club?  Do you have similar hang-ups to the ones I had, and wonder if they are only for super-fit, semi-professional athletes?  

I'm really looking forward to the new developments in my running that I know being a club runner will bring.  I'll let you know how I get on, once my achey legs have recovered and I've managed to get out of the bath.

I am in great need of a muscle therapy bubble bath this evening. I went running with my local running club this evening and ran almost twice as far as I've ever run before! #running #legsdontworkanymore #intervaltraining #etonmanorac #london #bath #bubble
I really earned this muscle therapy bubble bath last night!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Books and sky

We went to North Yorkshire for a week, and camped on the edge of Dalby Forest on the North York Moors.  I realised that one of the most important reasons I love camping is because it forces me to slow down and do nothing.  

We went for long walks during the day, and in the late afternoon and evening I passed the time by reading (four and a half novels in five days - what a treat!) and gazing at the sky.





That's it - books and sky.  




Yorkshire sunset, seen from the tent doorway last night. This photo doesn't reveal how windy it is camping on the edge of the moors! #camping #yorkshire #sunset #summer

But honestly - what more do you need?

Forest walks through the tall trees of Dalby #summer #forest #walk

I ❤️ Yorkshire #summer #camping #sky #sunset




Friday, 8 August 2014

The best breakfast

I finally found a granola recipe that is quick and easy to make - no tedious removing from the oven to stir every five minutes - and which doesn't require me to hand over my entire month's food budget to Holland and Barrett in order to buy ingredients: this recipe - from the brilliant Jack Monroe.  
  • The recipe uses ingredients that I always have in the house: oats, peanut butter, honey and a little pat of butter.  That's it.
  • It took me about 2 minutes to mix and then just 15 minutes to cook.
  • It made the whole house smell amazing while it baked.
  • Cam did a quality control test once it was cooled, and I had to physically remove the spoon from his hand in order to stop him from eating the WHOLE BATCH.

Granola jars
I had some for breakfast this morning with yogurt, banana and fridge jam.  It was one of the nicest breakfasts I've had in months.

A very fine breakfast

The fridge jam is a cross between a sauce and a jam.  It needs to be kept in the fridge, and is a lovely thing to have on hand as the basis for a fruity breakfast, a smoothie or a pudding.  This one is made from half a punnet of blackcurrants - left over from an enthusiastic session at the PYO farm last week - a few shakes of caster sugar, and two tablespoons of water.  I put everything in a pan, brought it to the boil, and left it to bubble for a few minutes before cooling and putting it in a clean jar. 

Blackcurrant fridge jam

It is nice and sharp, and a wonderful colour.  You can make this from any fruit, but berries and stone fruits work particularly well.  The key to making fridge jam is just to use a very small spoonful or two of water in your mixture.  Proper jam uses much more sugar and no water; stewed fruit (or fruit compote) uses less sugar but more water - fridge jam falls somewhere in the middle.  

I love blackcurrants so much - such an interesting, feisty fruit.  This jar of them tastes  like distilled summer.      

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Oncology experiences

The longest placement of our course is for twelve weeks, towards the end of our third year.  We can ask to be placed in a particular specialism, and the university and the hospitals it partners with try to accommodate our requests.  I asked for oncology, and was given it.

It was a tough placement.  So much is expected of us by this stage in our course.  Our mentors are assessing whether or not they are happy for us to join the register of nurses, and we are acutely aware that in a few weeks or months (if our mentors are satisfied with our abilities) we will be newly qualified and practising independently.  We are trying to learn as much as possible while we still can, but also prove that we already know how to be safe and work as a graduate nurse.  We have seen so much by this stage of our course (after a Saturday night shift in A&E I truly thought I'd seen everything) - but of course we haven't seen or experienced a fraction of what there is to see.  People's bodies and minds still shock and surprise me.  This placement was when I properly understood that I will never stop learning.

And then there is oncology itself.  Cancer is a very complex disease that evolves and changes over time.  It can be cured and managed better than ever before - but not always.  It affects everybody differently, and touches a person's family, friends and lifestyle too.  

In my first week on the ward, one of the Macmillan Nurse Specialists said that I must make sure to spend a morning with her in one of the outpatient clinics before the end of the placement.  "You will get a very one-sided view of cancer by working on a ward," she told me.  It wasn't until the penultimate week of my placement that I got a chance to take her up on her invitation and join her in the outpatient clinic.  On the ward I cared for people who were very sick - either because their disease had progressed and they were close to end of life, or because the treatment they were receiving was making them extremely unwell, even though it may have been killing the cancer.  However, in the clinic I met a much greater number of patients who were either living a completely full life with cancer and whose symptoms were completely under control, or whose cancer had been cured or removed - by the often harrowing treatment we gave on the ward - and who had been in remission for many years.  Many of these people were the beneficiaries of the enormous amount of reasearch and experimentation that goes into oncology in this country.  It was helpful to be reminded that the very unwell people I was nursing on the ward, were just a small proportion of the number of people affected by the disease.

I had so much to think about and a great deal to say while I was on placement on this ward, but was unable to express it - partly due to confidentiality, but also because there was just so much to process in my mind.  I took even more photos than usual on my commutes, and tried to spend the time on the train really focusing on my nursing skills, and reflecting on my new life as a nurse.  I didn't get enough sleep because the shift pattern on this ward was unusually relentless, and I didn't run for the same reason.  To be able to give of yourself - as you need to do when you are a nurse, and in many other professions - you need to be able to look after yourself too.  I ended the placement with a new determination to make more time for running, sleeping, reading magazines and baking cakes - all those good things which recharge my batteries and keep me content. 

12:30pm - last week at Bart's so last week of St Paul's pictures. This one is for @runnergmcc who thinks I haven't taken enough! #stpauls  #london #work #studentnurse

6:55 - St Paul's looking particularly majestic this morning #stpauls #london #morning

6:45am - playing peepo with St Paul's #london #morning #stpauls #work

6:50am - looking up #stpauls #london

12:10 - came in early to do some shopping before work, and found myself admiring this view of St Paul's from the back as I came up the escalators from New Change #stpauls #london #sky

6:50am - the top of the dome, above the top of the trees #stpauls #sky #london #morning

6:45 - coming up from underground #london #tube #morning #work

Although I'm not going to be working in oncology when I qualify, I wonder if it might be something I return to at some point in my career.  As well as being the toughest placement I've done, it was also one of the most satisfying.  I had days where I came out of work on such a high because I knew I'd left patients feeling better at the end of the shift because of something I'd done.  And quite simply, that's what it's all about.

6:45am - steps like piano keys at St Paul's station #tube #london #work #commute