August 2010

Milo in Barcelona. Yay globalisation!

1. I can chop firewood. Just.

I have horrible visions of television dramas set around the Tudor period featuring novice executioners and the several swipes it took to remove a stubborn head. At least I only have wood to contend with. It took a few attempts, near misses and words of, ‘You need to shuffle back and move your feet away’ then success. If I had a photo of the piece, then I would have posted it up but it went straight into the fire. New Zealanders, I am told, do not like to stand on ceremony (and it’s freaking cold)

2. The Tim Tam Slam

Sweet antipodean mercy, why after 26 years, did I have absolutely no idea such a marvel existed? It’s the stop-gap between something warm and comforting, and child-like pleasure of trying to drop a water bomb on your uncle’s head.  You can’t tell, but I’m eyeing my Aussie and Kiwi friends with suspicion for holding out on me.

I fear that I’m going to get pressure of speech in explaining what exactly this is, but simply put: take a Tim Tam (biscuit like a UK Penguin bar, but better) bite the corner off opposite ends. Dunk it into a chocolate drink (Milo is the mix of choice here) and suck. When you can feel the liquid on your tongue, *very quickly* take the biscuit and put it in your mouth. There you will experience chocolate nirvana. The hot liquid gets sucked right into the biscuit and makes for a melting, warm, comforting sugar rush. I’m almost too scared to articulate how I feel about it in case it takes away the sacred fun element from the experience.

3. Kumara dip

Think hummus, but with sweet potato (Kiwi’s say kumara), cumin and pumpkin seeds thrown into the mix. It is awesome. O for awesome! I would have put up a picture of the tub, but I erm… ate it all. In my defence, I consumed it over a period of 3 days. Good with seeded bread and raw vegetables.


The ratio of activity vs food consumption is quite telling. Perhaps I should get out more



Just over a year ago, I was revising for my paediatrics exams in the medical library which sits across the road from the main university quad. In the midst of revision, a variety of things can give distraction: frozen yogurt, water breaks and Hollywood film stars… yes.

A medic came running in and told us that Leonardo DiCaprio was filming in the main library. That was all the information we needed. A large handful of female doctors-to-be abandoned their textbooks in a frantic search for the actors. Standing the Jewish history section, looking out-of-place with our NHS ID tags jiggling around our necks, we tried to catch a glimpse of the filming. We left disappointed; there wasn’t much happening, but we had a chat with one of the film crew who explained to us what they were shooting and what the film was all about.

The plot centres around a person’s dream state, subconscious and how they can be manipulated. Last week, I was in a small cinema in rural New Zealand, taking in the sight of Michael Caine and Leo having a banter in the Gustave Tuck lecture theatre. I was last there for a revision course; it was stiflingly hot and no one had cleared away the leftover catering from another event, so the smell of stale BLT sandwiches and old coffee permeated its way through the heat. The seats were so uncomfortable and the course was so tedious that I left an hour early.

I thought it was a good movie. It resulted in a trippy experience: driving through the pitch black, I realised that UCL would be enjoying the afternoon sunshine and in the midst of romanticism, I felt a pang of longing for the place that provided me with a focal point for 6 years. But putting emotions aside, it’s a building; the people I connected with in and around it are ultimately the constant in which we evolved and nurtured one another: it’s a continual process regardless of circumstances and distance. I’m certain there are souls here I can connect and evolve with. If they can appreciate the need for frozen yogurt and chasing film stars to avoid working, I’ll apply for residency.


Same picture, different camera

It has only been a couple of months since my exams finished, but I’m certain if I was to take my medical finals now, I’d fail them. New Zealand has provided a wonderful backdrop for what is known as the ‘post-finals brain drain’; if I’m going to lose my mind, then I’d rather it be somewhere beautiful.

I took the awesome shiny camera out for a walk around the lake. I wasn’t certain about the dials and I wanted to use it beyond the automatic settings, so after a couple of YouTube tutorials, I progressed to… creative auto!

Having spent my life in a gym on a treadmill, I never really understood the allure of outdoor running (well, you wouldn’t if your view was Brixton Prison) but I’ve taken to a spot of exercise outside since coming here. Pros: it’s very pretty and the endorphins. Cons: the exercising part


A very kind person trusted me with their beloved shiny: a Canon EOS 5D MK11. It tears strips off my own little camera, but it will take some getting used to. I went for a 3 hour walk around the lake yesterday; it was fairly overcast so the light wasn’t great. It is of course, easier to fault the weather when you’re an amateur using an alien camera.

A week has already passed, and in the emotional cycle of an expat, I’m in the ‘OMG everything is awesome!’ stage. I spent the first couple of days in Auckland, which I’m told is not strictly part of New Zealand, but for argument’s sake I’ll let it slide and tell you that having eggs Benedict and decent coffee for breakfast, followed by a visit to the bakers and walk along the beach does wonders for jet lag and the soul.

Having lived off a main road all my life, it was somewhat disconcerting coming to an area where birdsong is the main sound, and not police sirens. The pace has cranked right down compared with London, but it’s very easy to adjust to, if you let it. I’m a stone’s throw away from a lake which doesn’t get any tourists, which is nice (yes, I know I’m a foreigner complaining about foreigners) and while I can’t yet chop firewood, I do a good enough job of crunching up the newspaper, ready for lighting.

I’ve been asked if I want any creature comforts sent over, namely Marmite, but I couldn’t justify the carbon footprint, and I want to get to grips with New Zealand’s version of things. What is loooovely is walking through the fruit and veg section, and 99% of produce is local to the country. It’s winter so there are no red bags of water sold as strawberries. Deal with it and harden the f*** up.

Lake Tarawera


‘Harden the fuck up’ is actually the product of an Australian comedian, not the Kiwis. Please don’t hurt me

Creative prescription procrastination

Today would have been my first day on the job as a junior doctor. I feel somewhat wistful about it, I would have worked in obs & gynae; the only specialty in medicine I enjoyed. However, just re-reading that sentence tells me that now would not have been the right time.

Medicine is a vocation though; you can be on a plane moving away from the life you had, but people still get sick and they’re not going to care about your internal turmoil when the stuff hits the proverbial. Two entries ago I wrote hoping that no one would fall ill on the flight… oh.

While flying over the middle of nowhere, a passenger announcement requested medical help for an unwell patient. No one moves. I recall swearing quietly under my breath, and made my way to the galley. I introduced myself to the cabin crew and they showed me to the patient who looked unwell, but in no immediate danger.

As I took her history, her symptoms set off some alarm bells and it was impossible to examine her properly given the cabin noise. I felt completely in over my head, and I asked the cabin crew to put out another tannoy for a doctor, otherwise I would have requested the pilot to make an emergency landing. Fortunately, help came in the form of an experienced anaesthetist and he said she was stable enough to continue flying but we should keep an eye on her.

So somewhere over India, I sat in darkness in Business class with a chamomile tea, looking eagle-eyed at the O2 sats monitor while my first patient slept opposite me. I don’t know what the universe was trying to tell me, but it sure has a sense of humour.