What Comes Next?

I have two jobs at the minute; I have writing work almost every day, and I’m still working some shifts back in cardiology (more-or-less down to one a week now, which is what I wanted before the old ‘rona). I’ve also taken up painting mannequin heads as a hobby (and I’ve sold a few!). Check out my Instagram and Etsy pages!

I think I should count that as a third job, really. I’m going to add them into my freelance tax returns… which also means I’ll get to add lots of lovely art supplies as tax deductible things. I’m not sure how much difference it makes, but I’ll certainly be using it as an excuse to buy more paint and glue and heads. I’d really like to sell more heads, if I’m honest. Not least because my long-suffering saint-like partner would probably be okay with having about twenty or so fewer disembodied heads sitting around the house.

Anyway, I reckon that counts as three jobs. So then I started a Masters in History of Medicine at Newcastle University. I keep thinking ‘well, busy people are busy, busy people get stuff done’, like a mantra to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed, but I’m slightly worried that I’ve taken too much on. All I really want to do is write accessible medical content and paint weird heads. And spend plenty of time with my children, and keep my nursing hat in the ring. And learn how to do history.

History as an academic discipline is very different from clinical and medical reading and writing. The actual history of medicine modules are wonderful, fascinating and exciting, but I have to do a module on how and why we practice history like we do, and it’s hard. I can’t work it out. It’s a completely new language, and a new way of thinking and doing. I think – I’m not sure about this and I should find out before my first essay is due in – that they put references as footnotes on the actual page, rather than a long list at the end. There are so many little things like that where I just don’t know what I’m doing, and it IS a bit overwhelming. And maybe it’s pointless, and maybe it’s selfish. But maybe it’s going to be wonderful. Busy people get stuff done. Anyway, I’m procrastinating.


2020: Some Stuff Happened.

I officially left my contracted post as a nurse in December 2019. I had beautiful plans to really ramp up freelancing throughout 2020, staying on the staff bank for nursing shifts which I would gradually taper off in line with my earning more – enough, anyway – from writing.

I was going to sit in cafés with oat milk lattes and enjoy life as a digital nomad. My partner had just started working in a lovely café/bar on the Quayside in Newcastle and I was hoping to sort of install myself in a window seat like a modern Hopper and become incredibly urbane. Simone De Beauvoir would turn up from the past and we could sit and discuss our writing – she on important matters of feminist phenomenology and existentialism; I, something equally important advertising quack remedies. It would have been glorious. I’d probably have written the great American novel by now, or at least sold some novel nostrums to the infirm and vulnerable on behalf of the CBD and Magnetic Bracelets marketing industry Fat Cats.*

Having a lovely time at Newcastle Quayside. I’m the one with the less hairy face.

Well, we all had plans for 2020, didn’t we?

Covid struck the world, and the UK was in bits. I ended up working back on wards a little more than I’d planned, and having the kids at home through the week took some getting used to. They are almost entirely self-sufficient, but I started lockdown with very high expectations about how I could support them with their learning and general life. It turned out to be better for everyone’s mental health if I kept to myself so they didn’t have to babysit a frustrated and bewildered woman trying to keep up with primary school equations and Spanish phrases that were clearly beyond her comprehension.

I found it quite exciting at first. I love an apocalypse. This was probably as close as we’re likely to get to zombies, or Triffids or the rise of the machines in my lifetime.** I got really into it. I created a Plague Cupboard with tinned potatoes and lentils and water purifying tablets (really) and potassium iodide (not really). I switched my alcohol consumption exclusively to Corona beer, partly because I love staying on theme and partly because no one else seemed to be buying it. I ordered my prescriptions ON TIME, and I started actually almost-consistently taking the out-of-date vitamin tablets that have been in my paracetamol and plasters drawer forever.

I know how lucky I am to have had a job – two jobs, really – that could continue throughout lockdown. Work and earnings have been so precarious for so many people. Being able to go out to work – although the atmosphere and workload was unlike anything anyone had previously known – gave me a degree of routine and normality that was very, very good for me. There was a new national appreciation for the NHS which resulted in lots of free pizzas delivered to wards, discounts on goods and services, people standing on their doorsteps and clapping into the void, and general special treatment and adulation (but not a pay rise). It was quite nice; everyone enjoys a bit of blitz spirit and a change is as good as a rest (as my nana used to say before she entered that changeless rest that comes to us all). NHS workers were among the few to be able to maintain a normal income through Covid so all the free food and discounts felt a bit misdirected, but people didn’t have a lot of ways to demonstrate appreciation (again, pay that matches inflation would be, you know, okay).

I should, perhaps, have been chronicling my experience of Covid. We’ve all come through it with lots of relatable experiences and some challenges have been almost universal. But, for a time when you couldn’t really do anything, I feel like I’ve been remarkably busy. I think we all feel like that, a bit; I’m sure there are a few people who’ve used lockdown to become fluent in Latin or create their magnum opus. A lot of people have perfected their sourdough, kimchi, or crochet. I got pretty good at this amazing vegan Snickers recipe. Most people have just been getting through these strange times one day at a time, one bad dream after another, one hard-won online groceries delivery slot every week. Somewhere along the way I stopped enjoying the cinematic apocalyptic novelty of it all, and a glimmer of hope seemed a long way off.

I have bipolar disorder, and when I’ve been depressed in the past it’s been part of a dramatic, frantic mindless rollercoaster where I really haven’t been thinking about things properly at all. In the long periods between those bumpy parts of the rollercoaster, I’m normally very happy and functional. In this last UK lockdown, though, it’s all been a bit miserable… not even exciting and apocalyptic any more. No hope of robotic uprising, no Martian attacks. It’s very strange for me to be down like this without actually being horribly mentally ill, and I feel like I’ve got a bit of insight into that low-grade, long-term dysthymic sort of depression. You just keep plodding on, feeling tired all the time and like everything’s a bit pointless, but not enough to do anything about it.

Some people HAVE been working very hard to get through this, however, so vaccines*** are being rolled out and I am hopeful again; the end is in sight. Cafés will open again soon, children will be back at school, and I will finally write the great American novel, or at least sell some flaxseed for the Plant-based Omega 3 marketing industry Fat Cats.

*I actually don’t completely disregard my scruples, and – a note to any clients who might read this – I do insist on evidence-based claims, or at the very least a few pithy qualifiers.

**I’m not really superstitious, but there’s something about saying that something horrible won’t happen that gives me an instinctive shudder of impending divine irony.

***I’m very, very happy that vaccines have been developed; in fact, I’m very happy that modern medicine is available to us in general. I don’t know what the impact of this vaccine development has been on animals in laboratories, and I suspect it would be graphic and upsetting. Cruelty Free International research and develop alternatives to animal testing that are better for humans and other animals alike. They deserve as much support as possible.

On Running +/- Zombies

I’ve always hated running. Even when I’ve been fairly fit I’ve never managed to get to the end of the street without my throat, lungs, knees, head, everything crying out in burning pain and rage. Running is bad for you. It has to be; it hurts. Runners’ bowels bleed, for goodness’ sake. Look it up.

But last night… last night I dreamed I was running. Fast, and easily, and it was like I’d been given seven-league boots. And today I could do it. Easy as that. Well… not really. There’s a little background… it involves zombies – and the lengths you’ll go to when you don’t want to disappoint some fictional characters.

I tried it a few months ago, but I ended up just hurting my knee… it’s been sore, you know, since the clunky clutch of my first car… and then from when I had a dramatic and embarrassing fall leaping, mountain goat-like across some big rocks on the coast in Scotland. It hurt so much I wet myself. It was on a beach, though, so it’s fine. You can do anything on a beach. Look at Morcambe.

So, I joined a gym and I exercised my knee. And it doesn’t hurt any more!! The system works! All those times doctors and physiotherapists told you to exercise the bits that hurt and it sounded like madness and you didn’t do it? THEY WERE TELLING THE TRUTH. Strengthening the muscles around painful joints makes them better. Who knew?

But you do have to keep doing it, and not just do it once and then remember again a week later and do it again and then give it up for a bad job because it’s not working.

So I joined the gym and have really, really kept at it, only missing days where I was on a thirteen-hour shift, or that weekend just gone where I was full of cold, or a couple of weeks ago when I had a stitch for like, three days (what’s that about?).

I’m not suddenly skinny, or dead hench, and I haven’t got Madonna arms – yet. But after about a month I definitely have more stamina, and suddenly quite enjoy a very slow, shambling, stop-start run. Particularly when there’s an incentive – a gamified run, with a story and characters you’ll really try for, you know?

I still don’t want to go for a run with you – any of you – because I pant a lot and stop a lot, and also because it’s nice to do it by myself. I’ve got two children, two jobs and my partner is an actor so when he’s home he’s home, and when he’s not he’s not. Running and going to the gym are lovely because they’re alone-time which doesn’t feel guilty or self-indulgent, and – mainly – where I can pick up supplies to embellish and zombie-proof my base – Abel Township.

The people who know me are bored of this already, because I can’t overstress how much I love Zombies, Run!… it’s wonderful. It’s a proper story, written by proper writers, and the way it weaves you, the listener, into the story as an active – if mute – participant is wonderful. I am engaged in the story, I am invested in the characters, and I’m excited to know what happens next (I’m in season 2… please don’t tell me). I want to run every day, with the zombies after me, with my seven-league boots on and I want to make Sam Yao the Abel radio operator proud of me.

Today I Am Proust

I am not getting out of bed today. I have a cold.

Being ill is like falling in love. It is incapacitating, it gives you a headache, a stomachache, you eat too much or too little, you are surrounded by moist tissues and exuded body fluids, you dehydrate and medicate, and you stay in bed and moan a lot, at least in the beginning.

You become absolutely selfish and unaware of other people’s worries or interests, then when you’re starting to get over it you feel a bit bored, and having a nice hot bath helps immeasurably. It is so romantic.

I have a cold and it’s very annoying, both to me and to my partner who is ever-patient and saint-like and uncomplainingly supplies Lemsips and hot toddies while I lie in bed and repeatedly evacuate the greenish-grey contents of my sinuses into kitchen roll to distribute scattergraph-like around the bed.

Me when I’m ill

In my head I am an elegant, pre-Raphaelite weak yet beatific beauty. I have the back of my badly-drawn hand (hands are so difficult, aren’t they?) glued to my forehead in a swoon.

In the mirror I look insane and streaky. Pretty women are for men with no imagination*.

Actually me when I’m ill

As a medical writer my employment often comprises writing about ideas about ways to avoid such illnesses as the common cold (or heart disease, or cancer, or anything that can ail you), through healthy lifestyles, patent diets, expensive mineral supplements and so on. The importance of being generally healthy cannot be overstated, of course, but lots of illnesses really are unavoidable, and this cold is one of them. I probably touched something that some dirty disgusting child had touched with its snotty fingers. Or inhaled some floating mote of contaminant in the cinema. I am infected. I am afflicted.

I WILL follow my own advice; I’ll eat an apple every day and not just in strudel, drink less coffee and alcohol and more pure, life-giving water. I’ll be more consistent with taking vitamin tablets. I have around twelve nearly-full tubs of multivitamins which have been bought and opened at various points throughout the last ten years or so. I’ll start with the most out-of-date first**; it’s just a guideline, isn’t it? I’m sure at least a few of the vitamins therein are stable enough to have survived being ignored for so long. I’ll take double, just in case. *** And wash them down with a soluble version of the same.****

Back on form ASAP. Will tidy tissues, will have a bath.

*Quotable but obviously stupid.

**This is bad advice.

***This is terrible advice.



There is a sign advertising a psychic medium etched onto a glass fanlight on the high street. I have not knocked, and I probably never will, but it is very reassuring to know that there’s one there should I require their services.

I started writing this, and then I Googled to find local psychics. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did it, and I didn’t find any. This is reassuring, as finding that my local psychic has a business Facebook page and 46 reviews on Tripadvisor would tarnish the mystery of that small entrance to the flat above the estate agents opposite Heron Foods. I can continue to imagine her (I’m sure it’s a her, though I can’t remember if there’s an actual name) exactly as I do, all incense and beaded curtains, phrenology heads, hands of glory and a small, shrivelled monkey’s paw. I think she’s the sort of woman you can’t imagine stood up. I think she wears a lot of rings. I think she’s a drinker, maybe, of leaf tea (for doing readings) and apricot brandy (for bad breath). She has a sweet tooth and a gold tooth and a missing tooth and a necklace of her enemies’ teeth. She has a very, very exotic name, that I can’t think of because I’ve never even heard, never imagined such a name and I certainly couldn’t pronounce it without asking her to say it slowly for me more times than is socially acceptable, and I couldn’t spell it, ever. It contains some characters that aren’t available in the UK edition of Word. Her age is unguessable.

If she’d had a website, I’d have found out that she’s called Janet and she was in the year below me at school, and she has a gmail account and a Nissan Juke. The problem with having the sum of human knowledge and endeavour at my fingertips is that I know too much. Or at least, I could; it also means that I don’t know anything at all. If I can find something out straight away then I will, and I’ll never stop to imagine the possibilities. I’ll never try and work it out. I love that I can find out the population of Karachi or who did the voice for Skeletor instantly, but that power should be used for exactly those sorts of things, the Trivial Pursuit cards of life, and not just to dispel mystery from those things that ought really to be partially concealed by smoke and cobwebs and beaded veils and lace curtains.

I anticipate a backlash to this, and a return to at least some appreciation of our ignorance. In blissful ignorance, you can use ridiculous, overblown, flowery, bombastic language and make baseless assertions on a whim. You can express your stupid ideas without being too worried that the self-conscious high-contrast over-exposed meta-sophisticates of the internet will respond with a cutting meme. Too much information stifles creativity. When you find out how a magic trick works, it is always terribly boring*, and that flat on the high street – yes, just opposite Heron Foods – is definitely magical.

One Hour Later

I thought that it wouldn’t be cheating to step out and actually have a look at the fortune teller’s place, on the pretext of dropping into Heron Foods for some Linda McCartney sausage rolls (they also had Cauldron tofu at 2 for £1 but I got the last two so don’t bother). I was disappointed but not really shocked to find that it was nothing like I remembered it, despite my walking past it several times a week for the last twelve years. Unfortunately she’s called Julie (which is fine, it’s just not, you know, right), and has a telephone number and a website. I’m happy for her; you can’t have a business without an online presence these days, even, apparently, in the clairvoyant trade. There is no etched fanlight, no strange combination of colourful veils and curtains at the windows. Actually there are those awful vertical blinds favoured by local councils and slum landlords, which are always dirty and usually there’s at least one missing and which have a complex assortment of cords for children to hang themselves by. I hope, at least, that she has a gold tooth.

*Jonathan Creek says that every episode, usually to women who are trying very hard to give him every opportunity to impress them.

New Year, Same Resolutions as Every Other New Year

The year is 2020. I should be writing that I’m living in a flying car-partment on the moon, or that we’ve achieved world peace or nuclear standoff or are living under cockroach rule. We might not be so far from the nuclear standoff.

Instead, I’m trying to get back to work, in my normal non-flying house on Earth, like everyone else. I ‘took time off over the school Christmas holidays’, or ‘completely failed to do anything useful for the last two weeks and am blaming it on the kids and trying to make it appear intentional’. That’s scary, because it’s my job now, and I absolutely need to be self-motivating and able to compartmentalise my work and life even when I’m working at home.

The kids are at their dad’s and I’m trying to work. I went to the gym (this is new for me, but essential, especially as my main job now involves sitting on my arse within range of the cupboard where we keep the ket*). I came home. I listened to an audiobook for a bit, which is shorthand for mooched around but tried to feel like I was still engaging my brain in some way. I felt a bit bleary-eyed so I had a nap. I woke up on the settee and thought I’d gone blind, as I’d been smushing a blanket into my eyes to keep the light out. I thought about making a coffee, and found that there was a whole section of my coffee maker that came apart for cleaning, that I hadn’t previously been aware of. It was disgusting. I spent half an hour bleaching everything in sight (I’m quite mould-phobic) then made a coffee. It tasted slightly of bleach, and the Oatly separated a little, like soya milk used to in the olden days before proprietary vegan options were well thought out and pleasant.

Putting my thoughts down into a blog seems like a good way to engage my typing muscles again, so this is a segue into proper work (of which I have a pleasing amount, though not quite enough to live on just yet – I’m still doing shifts at the place I still think of as my real job), and not just more procrastinating. Honest, guv.

So, New Year, New Me? Not really; what would happen to the old me? It sounds too much like dying. I made the same New Year’s resolutions as every year:

  • Lose two stone obviously.
  • Read more.
  • Become independently wealthy.
  • Stop getting riled up when the kids bicker.
  • Storm the Bastille or appropriate local/contemporary equivalent.
  • See friends more even if it’s raining.
  • Write more, and not just work stuff.
  • Wear more gold, especially makeup, ESPECIALLY eyebrows.
Goldie-lookin’ face for the New Year.

I already joined a gym. It hasn’t made me instantly svelte and strong, which is obviously shocking, and the reason I don’t play an instrument. I want instant results, and I want them now! ‘I’m not excellent at it straight away? Then it probably doesn’t deserve my effort.’ That’s clearly a terrible attitude, and if I was going in for New Year New Me – and I’m not, I’m already excellent – that would be something I’d address. I don’t know how to succinctly put that into New Year’s Resolution form.

  • Be better at being bad at things.

No, not quite that.

  • Keep doing the stuff you’re bad at.

No, not that either. If the aim is not to give up easily, the answer is to make progress measurable:

  • Do a new thing ten times before you give up on it.

Ugh. Not that. If I suspect that the goal is arbitrary, I’ll never stick to it.

  • Keep doing the stuff you’re bad at for a predetermined length of time based on the average amount of time taken to show progress, as evidenced by, at the very least, a large-scale survey.

Yes, that sounds like something I can stick to.

My next post will be about nursing or medical writing again, I promise.

*In Newcastle and other parts of North East England, ‘ket’ means sweets and crisps and general rubbish food, not necessarily ketamine. It’s never not funny to people who aren’t from around here.

How to Work From Home

It’s easy to get on with it when you’re stuck into a job, when you’ve done the reading and you know what your references are going to be and you’ve given yourself a bit of time to develop a reasonably deep understanding of a subject so that you can just write what need to be written. It’s the in-between bits, where you’re sort of trying to focus on what you need for the next job, that the postman and dishes and social media suddenly become very important. Today I’ve gone to the library to work, as there are people in my house doing some work, banging and sawing and going in and out of the room I work in (I say ‘alright’ every time, and I don’t think I need to but what’s the alternative? Ignore them?), the internet keeps going off and on and my partner is in the house with a hangover. None of these things are conducive to a good working environment, and if you weren’t your own boss you’d be asking your boss for a better place to work.

The library is okay but you run the risk of bumping into an ayurvedic baby massage group or singalongatoddler or any of those other awful, awful things that happen in libraries these days. There are some mothers singing Christmas songs to oblivious babies right now. This is clearly bringing out the worst in me. Both my mother and partner have separately asked if I wanted a Lit and Phil membership for xmas so I could work in that beautiful, blessed bastion of librarian silence, and I said no and I can’t remember why. I bet they don’t let people sing When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney in there.

Sitting in the Crime and Thrillers section of Wallsend Customer First Centre (née Library)

Since writing the above, a former colleague has passed by my seat with her baby. I didn’t ask if she’d been singing, and I didn’t preemptively apologise for being curmudgeonly in case she later reads this. Oh dear.

My Plan For Being Able To Work From Home (Without Going Mad)

  • Have some kind of routine: this is always on people’s listicles about how to work from home, so I thought I’d include it in mine. Actually, flexibility is the absolute number one top best thing about working from home (I expect), so we can ignore this one, or at least observe it irrespective of context: get up in the morning, go to bed at night, eat proper meals, drink plenty of water. Work whenever the hell you want.
  • Pace yourself: further to ‘work whenever the hell you want’, I’m currently at ‘work every minute you can because you never know where the next job is coming from… rely on no one’ and not pacing myself very well. I have lots of work… but I might not next week. But I MIGHT… then if I don’t do what I’ve got NOW, I might have to turn more down in the future, and I can’t do that so… work work work. Get ill. Work work work.
  • Dress for success: I always thought I’d leave nursing tunics behind for a job where I could wear my own choice of fabulous clothes to work (I love clothes). Currently my own choice of clothes is fleecey pyjamas and a grubby dressing gown. I swap the dressing gown for a hairy coat and a pair of boots if I’m going out.
  • Keep a diary/calendar/schedule to organise your work: When I left work my colleagues gave me a lovely diary (the front cover is a picture of a cactus that looks like a willy) with lots of space to write down my projects and deadlines (and all the nurse bank shifts I’ll pick up whenever I get The Fear). It starts on the 1st of January, though, and it’s the 4th of December now, so I’ve currently just got a scrap of paper floating around with ticky boxes and scrawled reminders of what I need to do, like ‘Au Ben thing’ and ‘NZ one’ and ‘cauda equina’ and ‘Thing for tomorrow 17/11’. It’s currently on the bench in the kitchen next to the paprika. Or maybe it’s in the front room somewhere. Anyway, I can usually say ‘Argh, where’s that Very Important list?’ and it turns up.
  • Interact with The Humans: unless avoiding human interaction is the main reason you wanted to work from home, and you’re genuinely happy being a recluse. I am slightly reclusive*, and for a long time now I’ve worked awkward shifts and just enjoyed the sort of friendships where you don’t have to see your friends that often. I’m excited about work being more flexible and my being able to see people more, and I’m quite aware that I might need more of that now I’m not forced into an intense camaraderie each week.

I plan to revisit and rewrite this list in a year (I’ll put it in my cactus willy diary) when I’ve actually got some experience and wisdom and hindsight, and shame my previous (currently current) self. Of course I’ll probably be too wealthy and important from all this freelance medical writing, in which case I’ll just get my PA to do it while I sip brandy on my solid gold yacht.

*about 97% of the time, and then AGGRESSIVELY GREGARIOUS for the remainder.

After The End

Succinctly summing up my career by laughing and crying at the same time.

It was my last day – and last drugs round – yesterday. My colleagues secretly teamed up to put on a vegan buffet in The Big Cupboard (don’t tell the matron), and gave me flowers and gin and other lovely things. I forgot to take the flowers home as I’d put them in some water in a urine bottle and left them in the sluice (don’t tell the infection control nurse).

I owe the team there so much; they’ve seen me through a horrible break up, rallying round to make sure I had furniture and a kettle and cups of tea. They’ve seen me at my absolute worst, and through a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (being at my worst and being diagnosed with a mental illness are not unrelated). They’ve seen me get ill like that again a couple of times, and always supported me and maintained a culture of openness and acceptance – these are not just management buzzwords. I’ve been part of their team for about 8 years, during which time we’ve all gotten older and wiser and gone through some stuff, individually and collectively.

It’s impossible to work with people for so long and not feel like family, and in many ways they are: you don’t choose them, you’re obliged to spend time with them whether you want to or not, and you can go a long time without remembering to ring them. If you work in care you’re likely to spend Christmas with them sometimes too, and to sit up with them all night talking rubbish, and always to defend them against external criticism even if you’re actually really riled or annoyed by them.

But I’m finished, and I’m a writer now, and I’ll have to remember that that’s what I have to say when people ask what I do. And then I’ll explain that it’s medical web content and they’ll look a bit disappointed because for a second they thought I was an interesting person with a creative imagination. Saying you’re a nurse is so much easier, because it’s the sort of job you understand from childhood, that you have dressy-up clothes for when you’re very little. It’s not really like you thought it would be when you were little – it’s the sort of job that’s best explained with that meme with pictures of ‘what my friends think I do… what my parents think I do… what society thinks I do… what I really do.’

Source: Unsure… general internet stuff.

In other news, I think I caught some sort of stomach bug at work yesterday – a final leaving present, perhaps. There are probably some jobs where you have less risk of contracting infectious diseases. Writing, perhaps. Excuse me while I run to the loo. Again.

Two Days To Go

I have not blogged recently; I have been too busy. Too busy! Busy with real, paid, reasonably consistent writing work! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

A portrait of the writer handing in her resignation.

I have two days left at my job as a proper nurse, and so more hugs have been forthcoming. People have started wishing me luck in my new job, and I have to (or try to) hold back from saying ‘well I haven’t got a new job’, or from reeling in horror at the thought that I haven’t got another job to go to. I HAVE. It is a job. Being self-employed is going to be a culture shock. I won’t have to get up at 6. I will be a writer. And when I say that I shouldn’t say it in a silly grandiose voice as if it’s a huge affectation.

I’ve been a nurse for a long time now; actually I’ve only ever been a nurse, or a student nurse, or a healthcare assistant. And it can be a really hard job. It can be incredibly busy, and busy with stuff that is all so important, and all the people who are keeping you busy are having the worst times of their lives, or they are desperate to get to the toilet but they’re attached to loads of tubes and wires and they can’t remember why, or their heart’s stopping, or they’re in pain, or their relative needs to know what’s going on or a million other things. It’s a really, really hard job. And then there are the ever-present staffing problems. That may or may not be linked to how hard it can be. I don’t know, I’m leaving.

Lots of jobs are hard, in all kinds of ways. I’ve never worked outdoors in winter, I bet that’s hard. I’ve never flown a passenger jet, I bet that’s hard. But people who work in care work hard. And they choose to do it, and there are millions of them, and they’re out there right now doing all the things it takes to make dysfunctional bodies manageable. I’m not a subscriber to the idea that people who work in healthcare are martyrs, or angels, or anything like that, and nor should they be – human care and compassion is paramount of course but there is so much more to it than that old idea of vocation. I genuinely believe that the idea of a vocation was invented to stop workers from fighting for their rights.

It occurs to me that there are lots of jobs that are not hard. Everything has its own stressors and priorities, for sure, but I’m sure there’s work out there where you don’t have to get up at 6, where you always have time for a cuppa, and where no one can be seriously harmed by your omissions. I want that. I want one of those jobs. Every few weeks there’ll be a flare-up of stories in the papers about how the NHS is haemorrhaging nurses, and it’s certainly multifactorial and an expression of a whole raft of problems, but couldn’t it just be that every year 20 000 nurses wake up and realise they could just have a nice job where they never get bitten?

Seven Shifts Left

I’ve got seven shifts left, or eighteen meds rounds until I stop measuring time in terms of number of drugs rounds.

Shift patterns mean that I’ve reached a stage where I’ve started working with people for the last time. If you work somewhere that does thirteen hour shifts, a lot of the staff might just work three days a week, and it’s very easy to go for weeks without seeing someone. It’s a funny sort of work pattern peculiar to certain sorts of jobs. I’ve never done any other sort of job so I can’t tell whether the bonds of camaraderie are stronger when all of your working hours are spent in close quarters with the same people all the time, or when you have to look to see who you’re going to be working with (and groan or rejoice as appropriate). If there are people you don’t like working with in an office, is that just it, every day forever?

So I’m nearing the end of my contract, and I’ve started saying goodbye. ‘Oh, you’re working Monday-Wednesday nights? Well I won’t see you again. Maybe ever.’ It’s weird. I’m not normally a hugger; awkward rather than misanthropic, for the most part. I’ve worked with these people so long, and there are a few characters there who I really, really love, admire, value. My real comprehension of what leaving really means is coming in waves.

There have been a couple of hugs (awkward), and a couple of times where I’ve got home and realised that I didn’t really say goodbye to a person I might never see again. I suppose if it matters I should make sure I do see them again. I can work out what people do on weekends and do that with them. We’ll see.

In nursing you tend to work with a lot of women. The last time I looked up statistics on it, something like 9 out of 10 nurses in the UK were women. It might have changed a little, but it sounds about right in my experience. I wonder if it makes a difference to how people react to a colleague leaving. There’s a social formality to the leaving process; someone takes on the role of organizing flowers or bottle of gin or trinkets chosen with a nod to the leaver’s career change or personality (I’ve asked for a cactus shaped like a willy, but I think they think I’m joking). And there are hugs.

I do wonder if it would be different if I didn’t work with so many women. What are the socially programmed norms and rituals surrounding the leaving of a colleague and does it make a difference if they’re performed by someone other than the main family present-buyers, card-senders, emotional burden-carriers? Remember that thing the bloke out of the White Stripes did, where he had a band who were all men, and a band who were all women, and they did the same things separately? That’s not good research, though. You’d need to do that a thousand times and have some objective assessment criteria. Try harder, Jack White.

I’m not going to be able to draw any conclusions on this, because I’m leaving a female-dominated profession to work alone. In my house, or in a café, or anywhere. I will be a lone digital nomad, and every day I will work with my both favourite and my most hated colleague. She can be such a dick. My experience of the phrase ‘lone worker’ so far has meant staying safe in other people’s houses… what about when it’s just me?

I could finally start suffering and write my masterpiece. I should get a social hobby. Do people still do roller derby?