Sunday, December 27, 2009

Award of the Year?

In 1999, the Old Paddington Cemetery in Kiburn had the honour of being awarded the title of the UK's 'Cemetery of the Year'. On the way to Dublin today, I sat an even more unusual award. The certificate below was proudly displayed just above the 'facilities'...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's snowing again in London, which means...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One of 884 million

We have been without running water at home for the past week.

Last month, our builders connected our plumbing to the water supply. Unbeknownst to them or us, this needed to be performed (and not just inspected by) the water supplier. Due to the risk of contamination, our supply was therefore cut off until the (newly installed) pipes are replaced, inspected and reconnected, something that won’t be completed until tomorrow. We have (temporarily) joined the 884 million people worldwide without access to an improved water source worldwide.

Of course, this isn’t strictly true. Our neighbours have been extremely generous with their taps, and we’re certainly not going to amongst the 1.8 million people dying of waterborne diseases each year. Nonetheless, we have had to cut down on our usage dramatically, and are much more aware of potential wastage.

Despite the fact that we are all a bit aromatic, there have been other benefits too. We have reconnected with the folks next door and my biceps have become much more developed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

(No) Hopenhagen?

From the USA Today. Wishful thinking?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cycling heroes

The summer soundtrack to my childhood was the Channel 4 theme tune to their Tour de France programme. Whatever I was doing during the day (usually looking after my sister), I would get back in time to watch the highlights of epic three-week, three-thousand kilometre plus cycling race. The colour, the language, the countryside, the record-breaking crowds, all of it was new to me, but the biggest impression was undoubtedly left by the riders themselves.

From the hurtling, headlong roller coaster thrill ride of the sprints, to the lung-busting, leg-breaking slogs up the mountain, I had never seen such mental and physical exertion. You could see the pain and the internal battle the riders were experiencing as the climbers struggled to keep up with the sprinters on the flats, and vice versa as the big men were being blown away by the mountain goats as the race hit the Alps and the Pyrenees. It made me want to be a cyclist, to push my body and my mind to its limits.

Few people who have watched though, can forget the accidents. Pile ups caused by a rider cornering too fast, enthusiastic spectators getting too close to the action, punctures, wet weather, animals, wrong turns, all of those could change the complexion of the race and a riders dreams of glory in a moment. One such moment befell my former favourite rider, the kamikaze Uzbek Djamolidine Abdoujaparov with a spectacular nickname: The Tashkent Terror. Three-time winner of the Green (points) Jersey for the most consistent sprinter, he had a unique (and actually rather dangerous) riding style and would stop at little to win. On the final stage of the 1991 race, as the peleton approached the Champs Elysee in Paris and the finish line, Abdoujaparov got too close to the barriers and crashed. Very badly. With speeds approaching 70 km/hour, other riders sustained injuries as he and his bike somersaulted into them, but Abdou undoubtedly came off worst: extensive facial injuries and at the very least a fractured clavicle. A reminder of how dangerous professional cycling can be.

The crash and his will to return to Le Tour (and indeed win the final stage in Paris) in 1993 served to increase my admiration for the Uzbek. However all this changed as I learnt that even heroes had their (major) flaws. Abdoujaparov had been doping to enhance his performance and was kicked out of Le Tour in 1997, subsequently choosing to retire. He was not the only one, however. Indeed, the past couple of decades have been a bad time for cheating in cycling, with other favourites of mine, including Il Pirata Marco Pantani, the best climber I have ever seen, Bjarne Riis, Erik Zabel and Alex Zulle all being banned.

I still follow the Grand Tours of cycling (The Tours of France, Italy and Spain), but no longer hold the riders in the same esteem. There is always the suspicion that these outstanding feats of human achievement may be tainted by illegal and often dangerous performance enhancement. That’s not to say there’s still much to admire. All of the peleton must have made enormous sacrifices and undertaken thousands and thousands of hours of training to reach where they are. Hopefully they’ll have dodged injury and illness and be at peak fitness by the start. Now they just have to ride the three-thousand or so kilometres as fast as possible. Any rider with serious intentions on the race must also be able to work well as part of a team, but also have the courage to grit their teeth and bear the pain when trying to ride away from their rivals or match their attacks when their mind and body is telling them to stop. For the lesser lights of the team, riding back down a mountain to help a stronger member that’s fallen into difficulty or to collect drinks for the others is often required. Collapsing in a heap and/or fainting must be left for after the race, but with the knowledge that the cycling must begin again the follow day as the race to Paris continues.

I have other heroes now but Abdoujaparov, Pantani and co inspired me to take up cycling and have left a very strong impression.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cardiology emergency - no students allowed!

Spent in the echocardiology lab. The teaching was good and we were learning quite a lot. Midway through examining a patient, however, the doctor was called urgently to the next room. A lady had become unresponsive following surgery to replace one of the valves in her heart, and it was looking likely that she may need be to resuscitated. "Run, please doctor!" the panicked secretary whispered after summoning him. My fellow med student and I followed in the hope that we could learn first-hand how such an emergency is managed by the healthcare team. Unfortunately, when we arrived the curtain surrounding the bed was shut it our faces. "We must respect the patient's dignity", one of the staff said.

I accept that she wanted to call the most experienced healthcare staff and that if we were inside we may have been getting in the way, but we are senior enough now to recognize this, which is why we wanted to observe from a distance. Besides, we also may have been able to predict and fetch any equipment that may be needed during treatment. Respecting the patient's privacy and dignity is of course essential, but I don't see how us watching would have been compromised this, or indeed the care delivered to them. And in my six years at medical school, aside from the more sensitive topic area of gynaecology, out of hundreds of patients I can count on one hand the number of patients that have refused my presence in the consultation or examination room.

In the hyper-aware state an emergency renders you, it would have been a tremendous learning opportunity for a situation we are bound to experience as junior doctors next year. What a pity we weren't allowed to be a small part of it this time around.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Week's achievements

Another set of random things I've done this week, in no particular order:

  1. Got my hair cut by an Afghan pop star, Sattar Sahill (check him out on YouTube, he’s got hundreds of hits!).
  2. Saw some cataract operations. Microsurgery is very, very impressive.
  3. Attended my university’s Freshers’ Fayre.
  4. Flossed.
  5. Reconnected with my (parents’) African roots by attending the Zanzibar Social Club’s annual gathering. Way cool, despite the fact that the average age of the partygoers was about 65.
  6. Celebrated my birthday with lots of carrot cake.
  7. Started reading ‘Anna Karenina’.
  8. Moved into to temporary accommodation, sharing a room with my sister for the first time in fifteen years.
  9. Began applying for a very exciting summer job in Japan next year.
  10. Was given a smartphone!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Having surgery to remove your appendix feels like being in a fist fight with a very short person. And losing badly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What an email!

Quite possibly the most spectacular email I have ever received. It's a bit long, but worth it. They say thanks four times and apologise on five occasions, but the icing on the cake is the text in bold. some names changed.

From: Customer Relations []
Sent: 10 August 2009 08:44
To: Moctopod
Subject: Complaint about Theatre+Meal Package

Date: Monday 10th August 2009

Booking Reference:
Incident Number:

Dear Moctopod

Firstly I would like to thank you for choosing to book with, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your recent correspondence, which we have received in us at regarding your booking for Sister Act tickets tickets and Pizza Restaurant Chain reservation. Customer feedback, be it critical or complimentary is extremely important to us and we truly appreciate the time you have taken to write. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continuous patience understanding and cooperation with this matter.

Naturally, I am extremely concerned to learn of the disappointments you have experienced with your above booking, Please be assure that I completely understand your disappointment and frustration with this situation which is why I have taken the time to thoroughly investigate your case in full for you, as here at we value all of our customers and their feedback.

Having studied the points raised, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies for any inconvenience, disappointment or upset that may have been suffered, after investigation into your case please be assured that we had sent your reservation details to the Restaurant at the time of booking and they were aware your booking was made through us, please accept my sincere apologies that this was not the expressed to you upon your arrival to the restaurant. We had sent a fax confirmation to the restaurant and I can only apologis that the restaurant did not pick this up.

Please be advised that after spending some time discussing your case with My colluegues who deal direct with our restaurant contracts, and I am pleased to advise that we have heard back from the restaurant direct and they would also like us to extend their sincerest apologise for your experience with them.

I would like to thank you for having taken the time to bring your views to our attention, our customer comments are vital to the future success of our operation, helping us to monitor analyse and improve our service to our customers, and all correspondence is carefully analysed and brought to the attention of those responsible for effecting the necessary improvements.

I would like to reassure you in that fact that have spoken to all involved with your booking endeavouring to ensure a more professional and high level of service in the future. I wanted to ensure that your situation was highlighted to all the necessary parties in order to secure a more professional approach in the future aiming to provide the highest level of customer service that we at have come to expect, all customer feedback and concerns will be logged against the particular Restaurant/supplier in order for us to monitor their operations and practices. I would like to explain that here at we do keep a log of complaints received into us and logging each complaint against each property. This is to allow us to monitor the operations and practices of our restaurants suppliers. If complaint levels reach a certain rate on a certain suppluer we do have the ability to run reports and asses our contracts. Therefore please do have faith that your feedback is extremely valued by ourselves as it will help us to ensure we maintain the highest level of service we aim to work towards. our customer comments are vital to the future success of our operation, helping us to monitor analyse and improve our service to our customers, and all correspondence is carefully analysed and brought to the attention of those responsible for effecting the necessary improvements.

Please be assured that here at we do pride ourselves on our customer satisfaction, we value all of our customers, and all customer feedback be it critical or complimentary is extremely important to us. We are continuously working to exceed all of our customer's expectations, we are continually looking to improve the service we provide and ensure every customers experience with us is an excellent one. We are continuously and actively listening to our customers in order to improve our service and retain and encourage repeat customers. Therefore it is extremely disappointing when business partners we are involved with jeopardise the high reputation that we at work so hard to achieve.

Furthermore as here at we take customer service very seriously, we always strive to exceed all of our customers expectation and expect all of our suppliers and hotels to do the same, as a valued and loyal customer, and in appreciation of your feedback and the series of events experienced, as a gesture of goodwill from and Pizza Restaurant Chain I am delighted to explain that have negotiated A full refund on the restaurant element of your bookings and also the chance to revisit Pizza Restaurant Chain for a complimentary meal up to the value of £xx. I can confirm that I have successfully refunded your card used to make the booking s for a total of £xx; this refund process has been successful and teh amount should show back into your account within the next 5-10 working days. I would like to explain that when you are ready to book your restaurant reservation pleasae email me directly on and i will arrange this with Pizza Restaurant Chain on your behalf.

In closing, I would again like to offer my sincere apologies for any distress that may have been suffered, I trust the above information has clarified any concerns you may have had, and I thank you for your most valued custom and raised comments. I do truly hope that you were still able to enjoy your theatre show, I have to say sister act does look amazing.

I do hope that my assistance has helped towards restoring your faith in us, and will ensure your confidence and reassurance when enjoying our activities in the future.

I do truly hope that the above information has helped to explain and sufficiently respond to your previously raised concerns, however if you do have any further queries or questions at all regarding this please do not hesitate to contact us either by telephone or by return email back to myself.

I do truly hope that you continue to be a valued customer of ours and continue to enjoy our products and services on our site

Assuring you of our best intentions at all times

Kindest regards

Generic Name

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Therapy: the game

I’m currently on my psychiatry placement. I’m not going to write about any of the patients I’ve seen and spoken to so far (to be honest it’s a bit overwhelming and there’s still so much to think about), but I wanted to share something that caught my attention. My consultant runs a ‘first episode psychosis’ clinic in a fairly innocuous looking youth centre, where patients with newly diagnosed psychotic episodes can receive medical help away from the stigma-attached local mental health unit. One patient didn’t want a student present, so I went to the waiting room where I spotted the above ‘game’ on a table. Alas I didn’t have time to explore the contents...

Thursday, April 09, 2009


I love where I live. The culture, the energy, the amenities, the transport links. It's been my only home, and it hurts to see what's happened in the past few months, as the economic downturn has taken it's grip.

Photos taken on Kilburn High Road on the 5th April 2009