Sunday, May 27, 2012

It Doesn't Scan

I have a Bodyline card.  It's a Leeds Card thingy where, for £25 a month, I can swim at any time off-peak in any of the Leeds pools and could also use the gym if I like (I keep meaning to try it but never have had time!)

Because I swim several times a week, and because a swim costs four pounds something now, I definitely get my value from it.

How it should work is - - I hand it to the person behind the desk, they scan it on their little machine, and it should register that it's me.

However, this is not what happens.  Because my card doesn't scan.  It never has scanned.  I don't know why.  Perhaps it travelled in the post with a magnet or suchlike when it was sent to me.

There are three or four people behind the desk at the pool and they just never take on board that my card doesn't scan.

So we always have a conversation that goes like this.

ME:  One swimmer please.  Here's my Bodyline card.  But it doesn't scan.

DESK PERSON:  I'll just scan it.

ME:  It doesn't scan.

DESK PERSON:  (trying to scan it)  That's odd.  It doesn't scan.

ME:  No, it never has done.

What happens next depends on the desk person.

DESK PERSON:  (Young and keen) Oooh!  It doesn't scan!  Oooh!  What do I do now?

ME:  You type in the numbers instead.

YOUNG KEEN DESK PERSON:  Okay!  (They type in the numbers.  Hurrah.)


OLD GRUMPY DESK PERSON:  So why doesn't it scan?

ME:  I don't know.  It never has done.

(Old Grumpy Desk Person glares at me suspiciously)

OLD GRUMPY DESK PERSON:  So have you done something to it?

ME:  (looking guilty)  No, it's always been like that.

OLD GRUMPY DESK PERSON (with an air of supreme self-sacrifice)  I'll have to - - (dramatic pause)  - - type in all the numbers myself now.  (Deep sigh).

I have been swimming at that pool since December 2009 and nobody has EVER remembered that I have a card that doesn't scan so I have to have this conversation EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Yes, yes, I know.  There are worse problems.  Okay, I'll shut up now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Planet Earth Live - or Cute Baby Animals in Peril

Ahh yes, Planet Earth Live.  The BBC sends lots of outside broadcast teams all over the world to do a three-week live broadcast of what's happening in the month of May.  Lovely idea.

Then they got everything wrong.

Firstly, the presenters, Julia Bradbury and Richard Hammond.  Both perfectly good presenters and as a matter of fact I've always liked Julia Bradbury's walking programmes.  Richard Hammond - we are told - has always been interested in wildlife - - well, I have to say he's kept this a big secret.  He's best known as one of the presenters of Top Gear and was no doubt chosen for this in the hope of getting some petrolheads to watch it.  But hey, he IS a good presenter and he's having a fair old stab at it - - though we're not getting a lot of expert knowledge from him beyond "Oooh look, there's a hippo."

So - - no presenters aboard with expert knowledge of wildlife then.  It shows.  And a producer who has decided to go for "family viewing" and who thinks that "family viewing" means "CUTE BABY ANIMALS IN PERIL."

Every bit of this programme - in the forests of North America, on the plains of Africa, and in some other place known as Meerkatland - is focused on Cute Baby Animals.  And every bit of the commentary is "Here's a cute little baby animal.  But what if something were to eat him?  Tune in on Thursday to see if he's still alive or if he's been torn into little pieces by wolves."

The animals are cast as Goodies and Baddies.  So we are worrying about the grey whale calves who are being hunted by killer whales, or orcas, as they migrate up the West Coast of America.  We are not being encouraged to worry about the killer whale babies and how hungry they will be if their mummies and daddies don't manage to kill a yummy grey whale calf for their supper.

Nor are we being encouraged to worry about baby alligators,  or baby lizards, or baby snakes.  They don't have big eyes and they're not cute.  No, animals are only cute if they look like a cartoon version of a human baby - - flat face, huge eyes.  This is why pandas have it sussed.  In spite of pandas having no desire to reproduce or even to stay alive, human beings will fall over backwards to stop pandas dying out, because they are CUTE.

So, as well as Will the Nasty Killer Whales Eat the Grey Whale Calf?,  we are looking at Will the Lion Cub Starve to Death? Will the Baby Elephant Drown?  Will the Meerkats Get Run Over?  Will the Bear Cubs Freeze in the Snow?  Will the Cute Baby Monkey Fall Out of Its Tree and Die a Horrible Death Splattered on the Ground?

Julia Bradbury is in some foresty bit of North America with a lot of bears and that's okay because it's still light there when the programme is broadcast.  Poor Richard Hammond, however, claims to be in Africa somewhere, in a tent.  However, since it's always pitch dark when we see him, he could have done the whole thing from a garden in Bristol and we'd have been none the wiser.  Let's face it, if you want great shots of animals, they need to be pre-recorded, and indeed the most interesting bits of this programme are the pre-recorded bits. 

Even those are repeated several times in case we're hard of understanding, and to fill in the time.  The rest of it, in spite of its claims to have wonderful teams of film-makers out there, is on the level of those old documentaries that we all used to mock.  "Gee, here's a cute little fella." 

Don't get me wrong - - I'm watching it.  I'm watching it because it has pretty scenery and cute animals and from time to time I like to look up from my ironing and go "Awwwww."  But I'd far rather watch a proper wildlife programme, not this pile of dumbed-down, patronising mush.

The BBC have spent squillions of pounds on making it, and the money could have been SO much better spent.  Whoever's responsible for how it's turned out should be thoroughly ashamed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Ohhhh I've been busy.  Crazily busy, working all over the place.  In the past couple of weeks I have worked in Bradford, Grimsby, Sheffield, Harrogate, Nottingham and York as well as my home city of Leeds.

I've worked with Macmillan Nurses, pharmacy students, doctors hoping to train to become GPs, students of psychiatry, medical students and had a really interesting evening working with nurses at the Royal College of Nursing's conference. I have enjoyed almost all of it, apart perhaps from what I described in a previous blog post: the Ilfracombe Affair - - though it wasn't, of course, in Ilfracombe.

One day last week I had to get up at 4.30am and that was seriously early, even for me - though when I got to it, the job was great and the people were lovely and for me, this makes it all worthwhile.

This coming week's pretty busy too, though not as much so as the past fortnight.  This is exam season for many healthcare professionals and I've been fortunate enough to be asked to work on many of the exams, or OSCEs as they are often called (Objective Structured Clinical Examination).

Many thanks to Lord Pudding, who noticed from his deckchair in remote and tropical Blogland that I haven't been blogging for a while!  From now on I hope to be back to what passes for normal round here.

All this rushing about seems to have given me a lot of vivid dreams.  On Thursday night I dreamed that I got into the car, set off to drive to my next job, and the radio came on playing Adele singing Make me Feel your Love which was written by Bob Dylan, and which I very much like.

That was all there was to the dream: I woke singing the song to myself.  I'd forgotten all about the dream until I got into the car to drive to York and switched the radio on - - - and of course it didn't play the Adele song, that would have been a truly ridiculous coincidence with all the thousands of songs on their playlist.  No, it was Jeremy Vine with a discussion about how the memorial plaque in Warrington had been taken and sold for scrap metal.

So, there I was, thinking about how when I'm in charge such crimes will be in a whole new section called CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY, and I was just thinking in a Daily Mail Reader way of what suitable punishments would be for the perpetrators - - - when Jeremy Vine said "and now some music".  Guess what came next?  Yes, you've got it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Impertinent Questions in Ilfracombe (Not)

I wasn't in Ilfracombe recently.  In fact I've never been to Ilfracombe.  It is a red herring, as far as where I was working recently.

No, I was somewhere else entirely and I was in an exam for some students who were healthcare professionals.  They weren't medical students.

A couple of weeks ago, in contrast, I was working on an exam for Leeds Institute of Medical Education final year students.  As you know, I don't usually say where I work but I thought that those students were - in general - superb: both knowledgeable and empathic.

I was a simulated patient for that exam and I was a simulated patient (acting the role of a patient, working from a detailed brief) for the exam that wasn't in Ilfracombe.

The students who weren't in Ilfracombe were were - in general - not superb.  They were not superb for two reasons.

The first one was that they had very poor communication skills.  They didn't even seem to have mastered the basics - - introduce yourself, look at the patient, ask them questions, LISTEN TO THE ANSWERS, pick up on cues.

One student didn't even sit down.  He did the whole consultation standing over me, ridiculously near.  I spent the whole consultation wondering when would be an appropriate moment to say "I can see right up your nose."

Some of them asked lots of rather personal questions, without any warning.

"Are you still - - (dramatic pause) - - SEXUALLY ACTIVE?"


"Do you know how to WIPE YOUR BOTTOM?"  (Yes, really.  Truly.)

And they lectured me a lot.

"You should try to increase the amount of exercise that you do."  (But without asking first how much I DID do).

"I must  tell you that you should increase your fruit and veg to five portions a day".  (But without asking how much I DID eat.)

"You must give up smoking."  (This was tricky, because in role as that patient, I didn't smoke, but they didn't think to ask me first).

On many days I am amazed and delighted by the knowledge and sensitivity of healthcare students.

The day not spent in Ilfracombe was not one of those days.  It was, quite frankly, very worrying.