Posts filed under ‘musings


Today I witnessed a registrar tear strips off a colleague of mine. Scratching the surface, he wanted to do some surgery which was done by another, and was pissed about it. Colleague was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I often feel like medical students are easy targets. It’s not like we’re in the same place for very long, so it doesn’t matter if we complain and placements are short enough to think it’s fine to just grin and bear it. We all have bad days now and then, but it’s hard to be at the brunt of someone else’s mood when you already feel like you’re in the way and would like to feel a little more useful.

I wish I had been braver and said something. I’m not sure what or what the hell it would have achieved, but I hold my own more at the gym. Perhaps that’s because I feel like the gym is my territory and I have a lot of confidence about it. I still feel like an outsider in medicine. Not so much in obstetrics, but certainly general medicine and surgery.

There’s no safety word in the hospital. I wish there was.


Add comment March 11, 2009

Resistance, ur doing it… already

Scenario I’ve seen before many times. Woman goes to the student gym. She brings a couple of bags with her, containing items such as: gym kit, heavy textbooks, maybe a laptop, stationary, purse, ipod, phone, bag of make up, toiletries, towel et al. This bag could potentially weigh 10+kgs. She goes into the gym, does her routine on the cardio equiptment (as that’s the only way to lose weight – looking good is the only motivation) and then she goes onto her ‘toning’ exercises. She goes and picks up a pair of 1kg dumbbells, and starts doing tricep kickbacks and bicep curls.

After finishing up with her 1kg exercises, she goes back to the changing room, gets ready and hauls her 10+kg bag over her shoulder.

One thing that interests me is that there seems to be very little connection with resistance training and the functional training that many women do on a day to day basis without even realising. A relative of mine has beautifully defined arms, evolved after years of chasing around and picking up active toddlers and children. Despite this, after hearing about the lifting that I do, she warned me against getting, ‘too bulky’ from lifting heavy weights. There seems to be a stop-gap between a bridge that needs a bit of a fix. Maybe that could be one of the answers to get more people, especially women, engaged in the benefits of doing some weight training, regardless of the form that weight comes in.

Or it could be a disaster, and the poor unassuming toddler gets put on a restrictive diet and taken for baby liposuction, in the wake of being the biggest threat behind bulking up.

Recommended reading: Gubernatrix: The Toning Problem

Stumptuous: Things you should not lift

Add comment February 25, 2009

C U Next… Wednesday?

Before I started Obs & Gynae I was expecting to be thrown out of the consultation room a lot, or be told in the labour ward that the patient doesn’t want any students. Luckily this didn’t happen and the vast majority of women I saw were happy to have a student present. Come sprog time, I’d definitely consider having a student midwife or doctor present; I’m the type of person that does better with continuity (and lots of attention), and in the last delivery I followed, I was there from the beginning to the end: in that time, there were four midwives handing over.

It was also nice to feel useful for once (Protestant ethic, much?) whether it was helping out the anaesthetist (who very kindly did some one-on-one teaching with me), fetching towels, changing linen, doing basic observations, fanning down the mother (and father) during transition, dressing the baby, getting it latched on and making cups of tea. Some of my collegues were really offended by stuff like this – they wanted to see the labour and deliveries and how dare anyone ask a medical student to make a cup of tea – which I guess is fair enough if this isn’t the speciality you want, and you just want to get to grips with the basics. I like to feel useful, simple. My grandmother constantly told me as a child in Italian, “Do your schoolwork, do your homework, then come and help with the housework.” Maybe it’s less of the Protestant ethic and more of the Italian Catholic grandma factor.

Anyway, the reason I really wanted to post was that seeing a lot of women in that context made me realise that it was about time I stop using every excuse in the book in terms of keeping everything tidy in the vicinity. Before I met B, I used to live about 7 minutes away from Selfridges, and behind the store was a rather awesome beauty salon which did really good waxing. I’d see Otylia, a Polish lady in her 50s who could get me done in about 10 minutes while discussing matters concerning her boyfriend. After meeting B and moving to Sarf London rather quickly, out of sight and out of mind, I forgot about it. It came to August and I decided to venture into Clapham to find somewhere cheaper for the Hollywood treatment.

I found a salon and waited in the rather odd paper pants they had given me. To my naive horror, I then realised that the wax was going to be done with strips and not the hot wax I had been used to. Needless to say that pain was excruciating and the hair wasn’t coming away well enough, cue more wax and more stripping. The woman who was waxing me told me halfway through that she was very inexperienced with Brazilian waxing and that they offered the waxes as they knew they were very popular among women. Probably not the kind of thing you should tell a client. The wax itself took about 40 minutes, half of the hair was still there (putting my narcissistic hat on, after waxing I would always touch myself more, not even for masturbation, it just felt ever so nice.) by which time I resolved not to look at the damage for at least a fortnight. Suffice to say, it was enough to put me off having it done for a good [whisper] 2 years [/whisper]

Recently, I decided to have a little image makeover, starting with my cunt (not the kind of feature you’d see on Phil and Fern). A very lucky find bought me to Holborn where a very cheerful Essex girl defuzzed me in 10 minutes with minimal fuss and pain. I spent the rest of the evening at home with my hands down my pants. In addition to this,  I have been thinking about getting a vertical hood piercing, although I’m still umming and ahhing over it. It’s an area I consider to be pretty and pink – do I want a piece of metal going through there?


After a very painful recovery from last week’s gym session, I had mustered up the courage to go back to start with Turbulence Training for abs. Cept I had forgotten that my gym was closed this week to install new cardio equipment. Which is fair I guess, they had put in new weight equipment last year. Somehow I can’t see kettlebells on the agenda anytime soon. Think I may as well bite the bullet at and get some of my own.


Baking my own bread is proving dangerous. I’m making a wholemeal loaf later on, and made a lovely onion and pancetta focaccia on Tuesday. It had disappeared by Wednesday, and I can’t blame B or the flatmate for that.

Add comment February 19, 2009

Gynaecology, at your cervix

Up until the shoulder dystocia on Friday morning, I was feeling relatively chilled about the process of childbirth; now I’m shit scared again. I guess that can only be a good thing for now and buys me a couple more years before I decide to procreate. One thing I won’t be doing is making a birth plan as they seem utterly pointless. I don’t drink the natural birth kool-aid so it’s not like I really need to have a 50 point check-list of all the things I’m going to refuse anyway. That’s not to say people shouldn’t write them, I think they can be very useful tools in terms of getting a brief idea of a patient’s expectations.


What possessed me to make biscuits now, I don’t know. There’s some icing to do. And Riesling to drink.


Gym, Monday. Bout time too.

Add comment February 7, 2009

Every night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need

It was a pretty and clear day in a drab London teaching hospital, and I was sat in the office of a very nice consultant. He was about to give me some of the best advice to take me through medical school: find a role model in medicine, someone you can look back on in your training process with admiration and use them as a guide.

 Looking back on the years I have been tallying up, I still think fondly of this doctor who gave such good advice. There’s often such a lack of continuity in training – from the quality of teaching (if we get any) to memorising the route from theatre to the changing rooms. Most often, it’s something to deal with, but sometimes it can get you down, especially if the staff members you’re dealing with are not always as professional as they should be.

I keep short vignettes of former lovers so that when I’m old and senile, I can look back fondly on my youth and remember intricate little details that I had forgotten. That is, if I can remember the password that I used to protect those documents. I’ve started to do the same with great doctors (and other health professionals) I’ve encountered as a ‘constant,’ (see Lost season 4) to remind me when times are though that there are decent normal people out there.

I’ll start with Dr H who gave me this initial advice.


It was my second module and I was really struggling with clinical medicine. At my lowest point, I spent an hour in the evening, crying in the ladies loos. The weather was dark, depressing and cold. I was coming home to a mouldy house which was falling apart, and our landlord had just informed us that he was selling up. The same week, B and I were driving home and we saw a woman being mugged on our street. Company loves misery.  

I had to get a form signed off by Dr H, so I rang his office. He was about to do some teaching on x-rays and invited me up for the session. I had been having a lot of confidence issues, but had really made an effort for the last 3 weeks of MAU hoping that the team would notice. After the session he signed my form off and we had a chat. He told me that from what his staff had told him, they had absolutely no worries about my competence or clinical performance. He told me that if I ever wanted to spend more time in the department, he would happily have me back, and all I had to do was email him – this included if I was in my final year. I spent the afternoon dancing on endorphins.


It wasn’t necessarily what he said (although I still think it was important) but it was the first time in clinics where I had really felt a bit of human kindness from a superior. When you’re feeling low anyway, the other insignificant snippy stuff gets to you, and up until then I had still felt the sting of the previous module: the eye-rolling registrar who expected me to know as much as he did, getting very little teaching, having a locum hang up on me twice, and no meetings with my mentor as he outrightly said in front of the team he didn’t give a shit about that and the professor I had to meet with several times throughout the year to get a form signed – our first meeting and I was tallying up times he was looking at my breasts. Don’t think we don’t notice.

Having someone to look up to and think back on fondly makes the insignificant stuff so wonderfully insignificant. Of course, medics will all have views on what makes a good role model. One of my pre-requisites is, “Seems relatively normal, wouldn’t expect them to tell me they were a doctor if we met in public.” Maybe that’s a little unfair, dog knows what people think of me!

Add comment February 1, 2009

Salsif-eye or salsif-eee?

Reasons to smile:

Big snowflakes at the farmer’s market this morning. Leaving and seeing a random guy out in his boxer shorts giving the weather a raised eyebrow.

The mysterious appearance of a large toy alien in the entrance lobby of our building.

Smugly making our own coffee than popping out to get some.

The feeling of cutting a garlic bulb in half and sticking the whole lot in the oven.

Picking out the perfect bottle of Riesling. (German, I have a sweet tooth when it comes to wine)

Landlord agreeing to rent reduction!


Salsify is a pain in the arse to wash, peel and prepare. It’s also very sticky, but no one tells you that (rather like the Things That No One Tells You About Childbirth). Luckily it’s a joy to cook and devour. Pan-roasted in olive oil = win.


Since being in Obs & Gobs, a lot of people have asked me about the numbers of men in the field, and what could possibly attract them to it, revealing the horror that they could possibly be turned on by it? Answer – I’m a bisexual woman – there is nothing to be turned on by in gynaecology. Staring inside someone’s vagina trying to visualise their cervix is as mundane as filling in prescription forms by hand – maybe mundane is the wrong word. It could just be me, but I have a hard time getting aroused by simply staring at someone’s genitalia in the cold harsh light of day.

I remember the sweet irony of reading on a feminist site (from a feminist) that a lot of men are attracted to ob/gyn – not because of teh patriarchy – but because it’s ‘easy’. Here’s a cluepon – think about all of general medicine as applied to women, the diseases, the meds, and throw a pregnancy into the mix. Bet cardiology isn’t looking too bad now, eh?

Add comment February 1, 2009

Too big for words!

Poor Madonna. Not the best time to be her is it? Naturally as a woman, the onus falls on her and her lifestyle ultimately being responsible for her marriage breakdown, whether it’s her religious views, career or even her physique! She joins the ranks of Angelina (home wrecker), Posh (too focused on her career than husband) and Heather (gold digger).

I didn’t intend on talking about her upcoming divorce, but I thought I would home in on something that has started to grate my nerves in recent months. I’m always happy to talk to women – including perfect strangers about weight training as I think it has so many benefits as well as making one look quite buff when naked, but no sooner mention the word dumbbell and out comes the almost conditioned response:

“But I don’t want to look like Madonna!”

I guess what they mean when they say this is that they do not want a physique like Madonna. Which is fair enough, she’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. What baffles me is the assumption that by lifting something heavier than a pencil, one will end up pumped like Arnie. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both ignorance and fear; somehow we’re programmed to believe in many walks of life you can get something for nothing. This however, doesn’t work in the gym unless you’re abusing various substances.

My point is, to build a body like Madonna; you have to train like Madonna, you have to eat like Madonna, you have to rest like Madonna, you have to work like Madonna. If you train like you’re bumbling along nicely on the cross-trainer while reading Heat magazine then go home via Subway, don’t be too surprised when you don’t look like the fitness model you wanted to be in 6 weeks.

Building a muscular physique can be incredibly difficult as a woman. It takes time, dedication, focus and some sweaty bloody hard work. Coming into the gym, lifting a 1kg dumbbell and then going home holding a handbag heavier than anything you’ve worked out with doesn’t make sense to me, but challenge any of these people, and there appears to be an assumption that they’re somehow so special that they work differently to all physiological processes and will pack the muscle on. Perhaps I’m being quite harsh as I knew sweet sod all about weights before I started, but there comes a time where the logical processes need to be shifted up a gear.

Being ‘too big’ is a spectrum anyway. What is ‘too big’? Some people consider Madonna too big, some will say she’s too small. Musculature comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution that will please everyone (not that it’s the purpose to anyway). Some people dedicate an awful lot of time and energy to become the way they look, and even if you don’t like the way they do, perhaps it’s worth applauding their commitment than a putdown of, “Eww, I don’t want to look like that!” Maybe once we start appreciating how difficult it can be then the mass panic of, “I don’t want to look like Madonna!” will stop. Or maybe not.

Recommended reading:

Gubernatrix: Why do women still avoid the free weights room?

Gubernatrix: Why lift weights

Stumptuous: Lies in the gym

Stumptuous: Other reasons to lift weights

Skwigg: Define bulky

Add comment October 22, 2008

October oddities

My gym is in full swing in terms of how busy it is. I give it another month or two before numbers start to dwindle. I had a rather odd encounter with someone the other day. I needed to use one of the benches, and there was a guy resting on his between his sets. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind switching with me during the resting period. He looked at me as if I had just asked him if I could take a shit in his mouth. He gave me a bit of attitude, “I’ll be done in a minute, yeah, ok?” (He wasn’t actually doing anything bar sitting) But I stood firm, smiled sweetly and got the bench. At this point I’d make a comment here about ‘roid rage, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and conclude that some people are just jerks.

Today I saw a girl using dumbbells for numerous exercises and from the corner of my eye I could see she had a copy of ‘The New Rules of Lifting for Women.’ REJOYCE!


My hair seems to have almost established its curl pattern (more curls than anticipated) I think it’s still a bit confused, not to mention quite dry (ironic since I haven’t been using shampoo). I think the worst is yet to come in terms of it getting greasy and I’m still a bit paranoid about my scalp smelling weird. The good thing is that I’ve only had compliments so far.


My tolerance to medical students (myself included) seems to be low for the first time in ages. I wish there was a cream you could buy for that.

Add comment October 13, 2008

What is healthy anyway?

I like to think I live a reasonably good lifestyle, but I think the constant bombardment of messages telling us to be healthy could potentially be… well, unhealthy. I think the UK has a bipolar relationship with food, and the pendulum is about to swing in a direction that could cultivate a potentially damaging relationship with it, moreso than there already is at least. I have a lot of respect for Jamie Oliver trying to encourage people to learn how to cook, but I think the TV chefs of the world have done things the wrong way round.

I noticed a lot of this healthy eating drive gained a lot of momentum when there was talk on television shows of buying eggs from happy chickens and eating meat only from animals have been raised in the utmost optimal of conditions, and to do otherwise was tantamount to animal abuse. This message had been lingering in the background for a while, but it has only come into the spotlight in the past year or so. If people who had no idea how to cook and were living on take-aways everynight – had they been taught the absolute basics first, learning to cook and more importantly, enjoying it – then critiquing where our food comes from and how it’s produced would have come later. Give a man a fish yadda yadda yadda. I just don’t see the point of telling someone the beauty of a hardback when they can’t read, then bollocking them when they choose to watch TV instead.

I don’t want to get into a debate on the socio-economics over mass production of meat, the giant supermarkets or free range eggs, I think I wanted to draw on a point that I mentioned ages of blog posts ago, and that was how we seem to moralise our behaviour in food choices. I was at my mum’s place a few weeks ago, and offered her a couple of biscuits I had made. “Oooh, I don’t know if I should, that would be very naughty!” Now if my mum’s diet consisted of processed foods, high in sugar and modified fats etc, perhaps I would have understood. But my mum eats a variety of lean meats, fish, fruit and vegetables grown in her garden, pulses and wholewheat products. Yet still she has conditioned herself to behave like a mischievous child when presented with something that falls out of her perception of ‘healthy’. Something ain’t right with that.

Not that I blame her, or my friends who do it either. Women especially are told about the consequences of giving into ‘tempation’ and how ‘naughty’ certain foodstuffs are. Diet products are now gearing towards a snack shaped hole in the market, not content with giving people crappy tasting meals, now they have to worry about chowing down (and spending money on) crappy tasting snacks – as if the desire to snack is inherently bad – I think it’s perfectly ok and normal to have a snack between meals – listening to your body saying, “Hello, some food in here please!” is a step in the right direction.

So behaviour towards food isn’t necessarily in great shape, yet now we’re being told to step up a gear in the healthy stakes, being kindly shown on packaging what the nutritional breakdown is – in traffic light form, how quaint – and how to feed our family good meals on budgets etc. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it can become a huge preoccupation, bordering on obsession. Don’t believe me? Have a discussion with the mother of a toddler about Petit Felous, a controversy that I never knew existed.

I watched Dana, the 8 year old anorexic last night, and while her story is an extreme one, it shows how thought processes can go wrong, despite the ‘healthy’ messages around us. For some of the people she was being treated at the clinic at, it started with cutting out chocolates, sweets etc entirely, then changes eventually lead to things like jumping up and down on the spot for exercise when exercise equipment was taken away. One of the women who runs the clinic said people are now being saturated with messages about healthy this, low-fat that, no carb this, that we potentially run the risk of damaging generations to come.

I’m not trying to put forth the message that it’s a big slippery slope; what I’m trying to ask is: is a diet and lifestyle that ticks all the right boxes always going to be healthy? We perceive what is healthy on different levels too, so it’s difficult to set a standard, but my bottom line is that a healthy attitude towards food, exercise etc is sometimes more important than what’s going in. If you’re eating well most of the time, and you want to have a slice of chocolate cake once in a while, for goodness sake, have it! You will not gain 5lbs overnight for a single slice! It does not make you bad, it should not be a temptation, you don’t have to modify recipes to make your favourite thing, ‘healthy’. Let them eat cake!

Add comment October 3, 2008

Last night’s TV

“I’m Dawn Porter, and for the past 4 years, I have been single.” Besides saying her name, I wasn’t quite sure how relevant this statement actually was, especially as the tone sounded akin to a patient saying, “I’m Mrs Jones and for the past 4 years, I have had Chron’s disease.”

Apparently to research free love (or polyamory), you have to fly across the Atlantic and then all the way back into Europe – but avoid the UK at all costs! All partakers in polyamory must have embraced any New Age paradigm, and be aging. I looked at B across from our contemporary living room, no burning sage in sight, what a disappointing couple we make.

So, the programme itself was exactly how I’d expect someone from a monogamy and couple-centric culture to react to a different lifestyle. One of the really frustrating things for me was how blatantly poor Dawn’s communication skills were; there was actually no interest in the people, what they were doing and the reasons for doing this. Her agenda was totally focused on picking out the downsides of a polyamorous lifestyle, and she paid little attention to what was actually being said by those involved.

Perhaps it could just be Dawn’s intellectual capacity, but two excellent points that struck me, which were glossed over:

1) You are the one responsible for getting your needs met. She had been speaking to a very sad German woman who had just split up with someone in the commune she had visited. The woman said something along the lines of how it’s up to the individual to take responsibility for what they want – this is so important in any relationship, polyamorous or otherwise, and could have been a great way to say, “Ok, perhaps we’re not all *that* different,” but that wasn’t what the programme makers wanted, so it was lost in a long sea of dialogue. It’s a lot easier to paint the ‘dumper’ as a horrible sex-crazed penis monster, rather than thinking about how we have probably all screwed up in relationships at some point, stamping feet, pouting lips and shouting, “But you haven’t x, y or z! How could you make me feel like this! You should JUST KNOW!!!”

2) Society tells us that somewhere out there, there is one person who can be absolutely everything we want and need in a person, and Mr Right will tick ALL those boxes – to think like this, you’re only going to set yourself up for failure, and possibly a long lonely life.I think the leader of the commune said this, but Dawn’s glazed look seemed to infer what was going on in her head; a scene from the Simpsons where Homer appears to be listening intently, but inside his head was a picture of two monkeys picking bugs off each other.

I have no idea what the purpose of the oil scene was, besides titillation and a chance to giggle at a ritual of a group of people who have turned away from mainstream society. It’s easier to do this than to suggest that polyamorists are potentially normal people who gasp, walk among us! Dawn appeared very concerned when another member of the group was saying how uncomfortable he felt about the film crew being there. I actually thought this was a good opportunity to see how the group as a whole resolves conflict, but luckily for Dawn, she wasn’t going to get her wrists slapped back at Channel 4, and the oil ritual was back on. Note no stomping off or slamming doors.

The conclusion was that every style of relationship comes with its drawbacks. The silent message of course was that there was something inherently wrong in polyamory (you could see the pathologising going on when the sad woman was talking about her relationship with her parents – AHA! So that’s the reason!) and that rest assured viewers, despite the credit crunch, we’re still the ‘moral’ ones, these people are obviously Very Odd Indeed. I expected no less, to be honest. One thing I had hoped was communicated that was monogamy was a choice and it isn’t something innately ingrained in us – it’s a choice where it’s ok to say no.

Before the oil ceremony, Dawn sat on a bed exasperating, asking why she was doing this and why she couldn’t get a proper job. My thoughts exactly.

3 comments October 1, 2008

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