There's a reason I'm not a poet

My Queen

My first two years of work are now finished- I’ve completed foundation training! I managed to get past my general incompetence, various hoop-jumping assessments and dramatic shit-storms in the middle of the night. I feel like I’ve progressed a fair amount as a doctor in this time, as is to be expected. I’ve tried to focus on my learning and tried to keep good principles in the back of my mind as I practise, and obviously I’m still an inexperienced junior doctor making mistakes but I’m happy with where I am clinically at this point in my career.

Thinking about the future, I’m leaning much more towards oncology as a future speciality. I’d thought about it during medical school although only had a fortnight of experience in the field. So,  I chose my foundation year rotation with the A&E/Oncology combo that I got during F2. And it proved to be something I really enjoyed, and something I seemed to be reasonably good at. The four months have given me good opportunities to not only increase my clinical experience in the area, but also to get a few whistles and/or bells to add to my CV. Nothing overly fantastic, but something to promote myself with in an interview.

As for the more immediate future, I’ve decided to take a move that doesn’t advance my career objectives: I’ve now joined the glorious ranks of the unemployed! The plan to go to China has been something running through my head for a couple of years now, and never quite come to fruition. So last Autumn when the decision of whether or not to apply for a job never year arrived, I decided to not even look at the Core Medicine application system. That way I wouldn’t panic-apply and end up not doing what I’ve been wanting to do. So until I head off in nine days time I’m enjoying being a lazy gobshite and doing sweet eff all!

Holidays don’t come easily in medicine, and with my last job (due to severe staff shortages) any time off came with a nagging feeling of guilt over leaving the rest of my colleagues to deal with the added stress that one-less-person-in-work resulted in. So now I’m taking this opportunity to relax, be happy, and enjoy the fact that for this brief period of my life I have much fewer things to worry about.

Instead, my focus is on What Happened To Barb and where in Belfast are the best locations to catch Pokémon. Jeremy Kyle and Jeremy Hunt can both kiss my ass- this is great.

M

Let them drink cake

Monday was the season finale of Game of Thrones. True to form, there were shocks and deaths a-plenty, and as we’ve done with previous Big Deal episodes we stockpiled a bunch of food beforehand to eat during the showing. In the books, George R. R. Martin showcases his tubby diabetic nature and writes paragraphs upon paragraphs about the exquisite food that his characters munch through. One often-mentioned delicacy is Sansa’s fondness for lemon cakes, so often our feast involves several lemon themed noms.

So when thinking of what to make for the finale, I started with a lemon drizzle cake and thought about how I could make it more interesting. I decided to add walnuts, and then decided that the icing would be made better by the addition of vodka.

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Aw yis.

I ended up not really doing the vodka icing as well as I’d hoped, but the rest of cake turned out pretty tasty, so here’s my recipe.

For the cake:

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 275g SR flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 100g chopped walnuts

For the drizzle:

  • 175g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • (Additional bit of vodka if you like)

For the icing:

  • 250g Icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • Splash vodka (better quality stuff messes things up less)
  • ½ tsp vanilla

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Start by shaving your lemons down to their birthday suits and mix the dry ingredients (apart from the walnuts) together before adding in the eggs and milk. Mix until smooth and then add in the walnuts at the end.

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If you’re making a tiered cake, grease two parchment papers and line your cake tins, and put them in the oven at gas mark 4/180. Bake for about 40 minutes or until done.

While you’re waiting, juice your two lemons. To make the drizzle, mix in your granulated sugar, stirring constantly until you get a runny consistency.
When your cake is finished, take it out of the oven and give it time to cool. Spoon the drizzle over the cake evenly while it’s still just warm. As I was doing a tiered version rather than a loaf, this is me putting the drizzle on upside down so it soaks into the cake more and changes the flavour a bit.

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Mix your icing ingredients together, being mindful of the volume of vodka used and the desired consistency of your icing. Once the cake is cooled, ice your cake however you want it and try your hardest to find a use for the leftover vodka.

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And we’re out of here

So last week I woke up to be nicely horrified at the result of our EU referendum. I guess I had kind of been hoping that the media had been over-hyping the chances of Leave, like with previous general elections. But no. And it’s left everything in a mess

I had a few specific concerns about the exit from the EU. For one, I’m worried about what will happen between Northern Ireland and the Republic. I find it really difficult to imagine there being a border again; I was in Dublin the day of the referendum vote and it was the simplest thing just to drive down, but I can’t picture how life will work on this island if a bigger divide between the two places is erected. Would there be a border poll? Which way would I vote?
I was also thinking about the logistics of things such as passports and immigration in airports, the European Working Time Directive, the effect that a loss of EU funding is going to have on heavily-reliant areas such as rural Wales, the loss of the single market, and the real worry that Scotland is going to leave the UK.

With a bit of thought, I’ve thankfully gotten past some of these worries. It’s in no one’s interests for there to be any real tenable border between the north and south. The UK is RoI’s biggest trading partner, and people aren’t going to realistically negotiate any deals that leave more of a barrier between the two places. I’ll be applying for an Irish passport to help with those airport queues, but I suppose it’s unlikely that there will be a hugely significant change in the relationship between the two countries.
And apparently the conditions of the European Working Time Directive have now been indoctrinated into British law (I think), so I suppose that’s reassuring. Especially given the current government’s attitudes towards junior doctors.
At the minute it also seems like remaining in the single market is the foremost issue of importance on the agenda of Parliament in the future’s negotiations. Whether or not that’ll turn out to be true when it comes to the new prime minister negotiating these remains to be seen of course.

So I guess I’m making a degree of peace with some of the issues that will be disturbed. And to be honest while I’m scared about the economic situation, I don’t know enough to say for definite how much or how little hope there is.
However, there’s one theme of this whole thing that I’m really not able to get past. Since the result was announced, I haven’t been able to shake the thought that on this day, racism won.
I understand that there are plenty of other reasons behind wanting to vote Leave. Particularly if you’re in a northern mining town and feel disconnected from today’s politicians down in the London-centric South of England. Or perhaps you’re more in-tuned to economics than I am (not difficult) and can see this as a reasonable risk to take, that we can reach a higher peak on a fitness landscape if we just change x, y and z, and weather the storm of economic downturn until we get there.
But despite that, you have to be aware that there was a lot of scaremongering going on in the Leave campaign, with at times subtle (and other times blatant) xenophobic attitudes pervading their arguments. That immigration is bad because these “dirty foreigners” are coming in here, and a line needs to be drawn to stop this from happening. That Britain needs to be Great again, and the way to do that is to make sure that it only contains British people.

Racism happens every day, everywhere. And it could be a biased view from the media/the internet, but there are people arguing that there’s been a surge in racist attacks or events across the country since last Friday. I believe this is because a xenophobic campaign has won, making it seem an acceptable viewpoint to have that foreigners should leave our country. Racist people’s attitudes are legitimised, because now “the majority of the British public” agree with what they voted for. In turn, “the majority of the British public” can be seen to agree with the opinions that drove them to vote that way.

Far Right parties in the rest of Europe are looking on with glee. Le Front National are calling for a “Frexit” referendum, and there are similar Dutch and Italian voices. That’s what we need, isn’t it? More far right nationalism. I wonder which future dictator this current situation is providing the context to the rise of.

I just feel like humanity is really not worth a thing right now. Are we really so backwards and idiotic to not see people of colour as human beings with just as much right to be here as we do? My godson rightly said today about people in other countries that “we’re all a family, with God as our father”. While I mightn’t put the same religious slant on it, that sense of unity and knowledge that deep down we’re all the same is so important. So when I see these racist attacks or xenophobic slurs being thought of as valid opinions, it just sickens me.

I’m just really ashamed at us right now. 4 bloody percent.

M

I’m a bit shattered this evening: had a few late nights recently, and long days in work. Sunday’s night was a good excuse though: went to see Lisa Hannigan! I’m a big fan of this woman, and remember how supremely excited I was when her debut album Sea Sew came out in 2008. She’s due to release her third album soon- I think the drop date is August 19th (unfortunately just after I go to China so I’ll likely miss out on it!) and this tour was to get back in the swing of things and get the album publicised.

My friends and I went for dinner beforehand (Coppi, was dee-lish) and had the best of intentions of being there early to get a front-row table. Unfortunately we ended up being late, because of ticket failure (by which I mean brain failure: I’m a dope and forgot to bring my bloody ticket). So we were standing, but we were right behind all the tables and it was a small venue so we had a good view.

She came on and opened with Lille, with just her on stage in comparison to the glockenspiel entourage I’ve seen her perform this song with before. Everyone was captivated and silent, and she carried on her control of the audience. Her cutesy shoulder dancing during Ocean & A Rock had us all grinning, and I have to say seeing the new engagement ring on her finger was a bit of a blow. All hope is lost.

She involved the support act Ye Vagabonds quite a lot, and had them playing key roles in multiple songs (at one point one of them looked like he was going to choke on his fiddle out of fear) and at the end the three of them did a stellar performance of Passenger. Her setlist was quite interesting: there was a large proportion of new songs and her choice of known songs was a bit different too. She didn’t play one of her big ones I Don’t Know, for example, and included a few others that it was great to hear. She’s crafted some lovely tunes for the upcoming LP so I’m really looking forward to hearing it. Good oul’ nautical folk, it’ll do a good job of reminding me of home while I’m off climbing in mountains and drowning in cramped Beijing buses.

M

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Lads.

I have officially booked my flights to China.

Aaahhhhhh this is so fricking exciting.

This blog is meant to have some degree of literacy and as a general rule I try to stop myself from posting all in capital letters all the time.

BUT YOU GUYS I AM MAKING DEFINITE PROGRESS TOWARDS ACTUALLY GOING TO CHINA.
CHINA. LIKE ACTUAL CHINA. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I finished my Mandarin lessons a month or two ago (basically two hours every fortnight of me sitting and wishing I was as cool as my middle aged teacher) and I had planned to get to planning/booking/applying for visa but I’ve been really busy until the past week or two, with changing jobs/exams/deadlines/extra-curricular curricular activities. So I hadn’t actually made progress. But now I have! Went into the travel agents on Wednesday and tied down some dates and then booked them yesterday morning.

The next step is applying for a visa. China is reportedly one of the more difficult countries to get a visa for, and you have to be particularly organised. Some countries allow you to rock up for a grace period of x number of days, but with China you need a formal letter of invitation to the country from someone in China, and you also need to provide them with the purpose of and an itinerary for your stay. As well as proof of your itinerary- this means confirmations of flights and hotel bookings.

So although I’ve booked my flights, sadly it doesn’t mean I’ll definitely be going to China! Earlier this year, the President of China visited the UK and they cosied up to each other (but if garden party chat can be believed it’s a bit more complicated than that) and as a result they’ve actually relaxed the visa rules. You can now visit China on a single entry for a total of 90 days at one time, and you’re allowed re-entry into the country as many times as you want in a 2 year period. Which sounds fantastic! My worry is that in relaxing the requirements they’ll be stricter about how many visas they give out, but I guess that remains to be seen.

So at the minute I’m trying to work out what exactly I’ll be doing every single day for 90 days. Needless to say, it’s proving a bit complicated! And I keep getting distracted by places called “Fairy Pool Scenic Area” and mentions of golden monkeys. But my plan is to fly out mid/late August to Shanghai, move around using the squiggly green lines below before ending in Hong Kong mid/late November. I’ll stick around there for a couple of days then fly out to finish my adventure in Japan!

China Route Map Plan1

At the minute I’m getting very confused trying to work out how to compare small guesthouses in rural China. But it’s most definitely a labour of love. Asia here I come!

M

Michaelday XXVI

My birthday was last week. I think. I was on nights this weekend so I’ve no concept of which way is up never mind what day it is. But the birthday was fun! As is my way, I had three birthdays: first was in work with pizza and cookies (I do actually do work I promise), the second was Eurovision party on the Saturday, and then the actual birthday itself on the Monday. Went out for drinks and lunch with the family and in the evening saw Derren Brown!

The man made us promise not to put spoilers on social media but needless to say the guy got up in front of everyone and performed blatant witchcraft. People of a delicate or religious constitution need not apply. I spent my time trying to work out exactly how he manipulates people. After communication skills training at uni, my knowledge of non-verbal communication and cues etc. has made me more aware of how these things work , but this was a complete other level. Like Super Slytherin times seventeen. It was interesting when he looked at people and assessed (or at least pretended to) how easy or hard it would be to manipulate them, but he was pulling off ridiculously complicated stunts that it can’t be anything remotely simple. So eventually I decided it was actual shamanic ju-ju.

Eurovision was also brilliant craic! I went out shopping beforehand to try and get a bunting of different flags but couldn’t find anything. This being Northern Ireland, the closest thing J could get was a bunch of red white and blue flags. Which is fine, I passed them off as France. My housemate had the national flag of the gays though so we had a nice relevant rainbow sitting above our fireplace in honour of Eurovision.

We’d crafted a bunch of drinking rules to make the event go by smoothly (or not smoothly) and they ended up being bloody well brutal. By the end of the night I’d lost my voice from shouting DRINK every time lasers or a granny came on screen. I’d dressed up in my Lederhosen so it probably didn’t make a very imposing sight. But the night wdnt on until about four in the morning so it was a success anyway. And more importantly I had fun.

As a birthday present, I got some money together from the fam and myself and bought a DSLR camera! It arrived the other day amd I’ve been playing about with it today. The aim is to be able to take semi-decent photos by the time I get to China so I can come back and not only be annoying talking about what a wonderful time I had and how much of a voyage of self discovery it was, but also be annoying and upload 732 photos in sepia onto facebook and make people sit down and watch my PowerPoint show.

Don’t go thinking you’re safe.

M