My wonderful moustachioed man at Heathrow.


My moustachioed man at Heathrow.


When I was 16 years old my big brother went off on a gap year, backpacking around Australia. I was jealous and wanted to go too but there was a problem – I was only 16. Eventually my parents compromised, I could go, but to visit my Uncle and Aunt in Brisbane and be back soon to start A levels.


I waved goodbye at departures, got through security (explaining that the cricket bat in a box was a gift for my cousin and was not a dangerous weapon, pre-9/11) and off I went on my own. I found a seat and as I sat down, tears started to form. I was emotional. I was 16.


There was another passenger already seated on the benches in front of me. Until that moment he had been hidden behind a large broadsheet. He slowly lowered his Financial Times and peered out at me over his glasses. Revealed was a tall, skinny man, larger than life. He was dressed in tweed with a remarkable moustache, a big bushy beard large enough to hide Basil Brush and Roland Rat and to top it all, he was wearing a wonderfully bright red turban.


“What are you crying for young lady?” he asked me, not accusingly, not aggressively, not patronisingly, just quietly.


“I’m going to Australia.” I sobbed.


“Mmmm, well that just sounds like there’s a wonderful adventure to be had and no reason to cry. You’re going to love it” and with that he was hidden again behind his newspaper.


I couldn’t help but stop crying and start laughing about at how silly I was being.


I never saw him again, not in person anyway. I think of him all the time though, when things start to get a little hairy and I feel like a 16 year old heading off alone to the other side of the world.


What a chap.


It is easy to fixate on the shit comments people have said to us, the ones that really stick in us like knives and do us so much harm. For some reason, remembering the helpful stuff is harder. There are plenty of chances to see the positive and be helpful and kind to those around us. If you are in a position of authority and even if you can’t match the remarkable facial hair of my wonderful moustachioed man at Heathrow, please offer up a good comment, you never know who might remember it, with fondness, 22 years from now.



Advice to my junior Dr self – but will I listen?



What advice would you give your younger self, just graduated from medical school and about to start as a Foundation Year One doctor?

I love reading the sometimes hilarious #tipsfornewdocs and they will probably start appearing again pretty soon but we usually see these articles and blogs pop up all the time – asking people what they would advise their younger selves about to start it all. I was reading a rather good one the other day and that’s when it struck me.

Not only do I have advice for my younger self starting FY1 – I am also in a position to listen. I have this chance to advise my FY1 self, 8 years on, because I am about to start it again.

Yeah sure, these things will not be based on the last 7 years as a clinician – but they are based on the few years of the life that has happened since…and maybe that’s a good thing?

So, at the risk of sounding a bit Baz Lurhmann…

Ten things I am trying to get through to my younger self:

1. Wear sunscreen – but accept that the guidance for you to do so WILL change.
When you do need to change, don’t be annoyed that you’ve been doing it for years, those days are gone, things change. Move on.
Did I mention Baz Luhrmann?

2. Nobody expects you to know everything. If by chance you do know the obscure answer to a seemingly random academic question on your next ward round then this will actually surprise everyone. Honestly, don’t worry – the students will be back soon so it will take the heat off.
Also, however much you read today – it will not come up on tomorrow’s ward round. But that’s not the point is it?

3. It is really hard to make a right turn in busy city traffic but it isn’t impossible. Be patient but be ready to pounce when the time is right. Should you make it, you will get home quicker but failing that, you can keep making left turns and you’ll probably still get home.

4. Advice is about them, not about you. Advice from anyone is about what THEY would do, based on THEIR experience. Say thanks, consider it, but you must add your own experiences to the pot too.   

5. THAT vending machine. You know the one, at the end of the corridor outside Ward 8 – right outside the ED back door. JUST STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM IT.

6. The opinions of only a very few people actually matter. I don’t think I can put this better than Brene Brown. This is quite lengthy viewing but worth every wonderful minute.

7. If you are in a room full of people and you can’t tell which one is the jackass –then it is probably you. (This I stole from my big brother @iAndyThompson – but it’s OK to steal…steal like an artist.)

8. Remember to ask yourself – What is the worst case scenario? 
Sometimes it happens as an afterthought but do try to use this idea in the moment. Right now, at this moment…what really is the worst thing that could happen? It doesn’t bear thinking about and in truth, it will never be that bad. So go on, feel the fear and do it anyway.
I’m going to remind myself of that when I feel a bit shy about pressing PUBLISH.

9. You can Google the answer to anything – and so can everyone else.
Except I tried to find a picture of the hangar at Fightertown, Miramar (the one with the lat/long coordinate plaque above the door) but I couldn’t find one…not even on google.

10. If you make a reference to Top Gun, be prepared for the kids to stare back blankly. Remember that 1986 was nearly thirty years ago and move on.

Come on, your turn…anything to add?

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