I spent another afternoon “On Call” today as a Community First Responder. I am either jinxed or blessed as today, like the three times before, no-one called and I got no chance to try out my newly aquired skills. I spent a week in the ambulance centre last month updating my practical skills in emergemcy situations and had spent some months before that on-line and in the classroom getting my general knowledge brought to current standards. At the start of each ‘on call’ session I checked my kit to make sure it is all present and ready . The defibrillator, the oxygen cylinder, airways and masks, the tourniquets and bandages; it was all there pristine in its packs at the start of my session ready for use, and it was still there virginal and unused at the end of my on call. As I said, in some ways I feel jinxed as each time I have not had a chance to use the kit and test my skills. I did get to check that I know how to log-on to the emergency response system but have not has a chance to check I know what to do when I get the call to respond. However, I also feel blessed as my inactivity thankfully means nobody actually needs my help. Nobody has had to call the emergency services because of accident or illness and I have to think that this is good news for my neighbours.

It is an unusual feeling being “on call“. It reminds me of when I was in work. There is all the excitement of waiting for the alarm to ring. The hours of mental preparation of what to do when it does. Checking the alarm to check that it is still working and its silence is not a sign that it has broken and the rereading the text books to make sure that the information in my head is accurate and not a figment of my imagination. All these emotions are generally pleasant but there is also a background fear that accompanies them. The fear that one will be called to something beyound my abilities, or called to deal with something with which I have no experience. In sum, just the fear of finding that you fail somebody in a time of need. That when they needed help, and called you, were found wanting. I was surprised to find these memories coming back.

I recalled with pleasure the recollections of emergency sessions when I was a young medic. The rush of high intensity work and the pleasure of managing to deal with a crisis and pull someone back from the edge. Working against the clock, in a team that was functioning well, is one of the greatest pleasaures there is. Even on occasions when illness ot accident prevailed, as long as you and your team pushed everything to the limit and gave every chance to the patient, the sadness could be tempered by the knowledge that everything possible was done. I could understand why emergency medicine gave its practitioners such rewards. My skill set was not well matched to A&E (I have never been very dextrous) and I moved into psychological medicine but still enjoyed my emergency sessions even if these were less hands on.

But although I recalled “the buzz” I also recalled the “dread“. In my latter years working, and partially one of the reasons why I retired, I came to dread being on call. Over the decades the general drift of mental health services had lead to a general over-reach. Rather then being limited to mental illnees, mental health services had suggested that they could answer many personal and social problems. This increasingly lead to crises, which were largely social in nature, being presented to mental health services for resolution. Distress that arose from poverty, or spousal abuse, violence or drug abuse was presented to the emergency doctor for solution. While we did what we could, there was always the awareness that there was little we could do. There was also the recognition that others, a social worker or policeman, may have been able to help more and the bigger fear that sometimes we were making things worse. Pretending the problem was depression rather than the poverty or poor housing never seemed helpful. Suggesting that the battered wife had mental health issues didn’t empower her in her marital problems and possibly weakened her position. The recognition that you would face crises, you were not equipped to solve, lead to this growing feeling dread when on call came around.

I encountered a little bit of that feeling of dread again today. However, this in itself was valuable as it reminded me why I retired and made me happier with my lot.

No longer unexamined.

Cader Idris

I have decided to try and post every day. This will have a number of consequences. The quality of the posts on average will fall. If I post on days when I have been vacuous and my day has been empty then there may be little more than a photograph and a few words (Such as today). If nothing has angered, cheered or aroused me then the content will be rather sparse. A further consequence may be that, the content there is may be more often concerned with sheep, goats and the movement of timber and dung as these seem to be the mainstay of my life. A personal consequence of this will be that I will have a record of my quotidian activities. This may not be riveting to anyone else, but as I age might become increasingly interesting to me if for nothing other than reminiscence.

In essence, I  intend to use this blog as my journal. When I have kept a journal before I have usually abandoned the project after a few weeks as I have found myself becoming increasingly self-indulgent. The absence of any reader seems to have encourage me to see myself in a good light and I never truly criticize my own thoughts. Though I feel I am, to a degree, anonymous when I write here there is still the possibility of being read and criticized and this will force a degree of inspection of my words. Simply documenting my thoughts is not examining them, hopefully making them public will force me to consider them a little more carefully.

Socrates felt that the “unexamined life is not worth living” (ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ). However,  any examination must surely be more than simply recording one’s ideas, errors, prejudices, hopes and the like, alone and uncontested. It is easy to examine others, it is incredibly hard to examine oneself. I think we need a sounding board to do this and people who are not friends and family are more likely to help in this endeavour. They have no shared history that they can use to excuse our failings, no reasons to give us an easy passage and no vested interest in keeping us happy. Many people complain about the relative anonymity of the internet but in this regard I feel it may be helpful.

To start off this new project let’s document today’s  banal occurences. My day today has been largely unremarkable. I pared hooves and shifted logs and decided to move my paper journal online. I continued reading my novel “Gwylliaid Glendwr” and downloaded a copy of Seneca’s “On the shortness of life” to start after I finish “Unauthorized Freud“. In between, the dogs and I took our walks in the increasingly cold air and remained impressed by the colours that autumn has brought to the trees. An unremarkable day but surprisingly a pleasant one.

Busy Days & Lazy Nights

The last few days have been quite pleasant. During the day I have been busy reclaiming the lower meadow so that we can keep the billy goats here (away from any female temptresses). It is now fenced, more or less, cleared and only awaits gates and a shelter. The goats had cleared much of the bramble that bedevilled this field before when, during last autumn, they were tethered here. When speaking to a neighbour, who has lived in the valley for over 80 years, she recalled this meadow, and the adjoining one, being quite productive in terms of hay and grazing. If I am to reclaim the other one we will need to remove a fair few trees but this could be the winter’s project while the sap is low. Waiting until the end of autumn will also be best for the bird life.

This work has been quite laborious and made all the more tiring by the sun and heat. It has been in the 80’s all week. As this meadow is bounded by a stream it is also heavy with gnats and horseflies so in the early evening you start to be eaten alive. This labour, in conjunction with the need for early starts for milking, mean my evenings have been very quiet and lazy. Little time to look at the blog and sometimes not even enough to consider cooking. This has meant that a few times we have just jumped in the car with one or other of the dogs and made the short trip to the seaside. Here a café will provide tea (with more than enough calories to replace the deficit) and the dogs get to run on the beach and play in the sea. All I need to do is sit, ache and watch.