Monthly Archives: March 2011



I was maybe eight, looking through the green of the mesh of the patio shadecloth. He had asked me what was heavier, a tonne of feathers or a tonne of bricks. I said they weigh the same, but the bricks would fall faster.


He coughed as he opened his eyes, blurred with sleep and choking on a mouthful of feathers. They stuck white to the sweat of his skin like scales, and lit the room as snow floating on slivers of late morning sun.


I think he said bricks, but he might have said cheese. In a race between bricks and cheese, the cheese would fall faster on account of its smooth surface. The physicists will say the relevance of the aerodynamic differential is dependent on the height from which they fall. Gravity is a constant.


She is bricks, solid and immovable, secure in her knowledge. He is cheese, he has churned himself hard. He sweats under pressure. I am feathers, I can fly. The form of things, the shape of things, the shape of things to come.

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Not A Cinderella Story

Did I mention I am home now? Hopefully for good, minus the odd week here & there when I have exams and such at the mothership. This weekend I am in fact home alone, with nothing but the company of various mammals, fowl and underwater creatures for company.

This afternoon I took the hound to the beach. He is, after all, a Beachhound. It was a hot day, but being late in the afternoon, a wind had arisen and driven most people away. Nevertheless, there was a clump of people deposited directly at the entrance to the beach, flopped like seals on an icefloe.

I kicked off my trusty Havs and strolled down the beach, dog lead over my shoulder, footwear dangling from my hand. The hound waited all of thirty seconds to poop on the sand, and as I pulled a plastic bag from my pocket in order to pick it up, another bag flew out and billowed (in a small and rapid way) toward the dunes.

Being an avid environmentalist, I sprinted after it, and thanks to a convenient clump of dessicated seaweed, caught up with it in less than 100 metres with only a minor twist to my ankle.

Luckily, the wind was strong enough to mean my journey back to the origin of the poop was a straight line. Although the hound had cleverly camouflaged his excrement to exactly match the sand, its unmistakable cigar-like form remained, enabling me to locate it and employ the miscreant plastic bag.

Not much wanting to add a bag of poop to my stroll, I tracked back to the dune-grass line, and left the bag in a prominent position, carefully noting its location for collection on the return journey.

Back to the walk. Strolling back down to the high-water line, I found a cuttlefish bone the size of a MacBook Pro. I picked it up to marvel at the size of the calamari rings its owner would have produced. As I marvelled, I wondered whether chickens like cuttlefish bones. Now that I am A Scientist of sorts, I decided I should put this to the test.

I returned to the poobag at the dune-grass line, and added the giant cuttlefish bone to the To-Be-Collected pile. I cavorted with the hound somewhat, thus distracting him from a miserable Retriever on a Halti lead, and we continued our stroll. Before too long, he pooped again.

I congratulated myself on having made the effort to chase the second plastic baggy. Knowing myself as I do, I decided I would be unlikely to remember the location of two bag-drops, so the second offering joined us on our walk to the calm end of the beach.

The water was deliciously warm, and on arrival at our destination, the hound and I disrobed and enjoyed some salt water time, much to the amusement of passers-by. Waves excite and repel him. He made all sorts of friends while I got thumped in the back by the chaotic distant cousins of a tsunami. I dried myself on my shirt and we headed back down the beach, poo-baggy and cap in hand.

About half-way down the beach I was enjoying my bare feet, when I realised that I had arrived in my Havs. Bugger. I searched the windswept landscape of my recent memory. The sprint. The Retriever. The second poop. A fishing float. When had I discarded them? No clues.

I was reasonably sure I’d have noticed them in the re-clothing part of the adventure, and decided against retracing our steps to the swimming end of the beach. Peering about the beach as we continued the stroll, I stopped to ask the hound’s new best friends if they had seen some missing silver thongs.

Sadly, they were of no help, though they did manage to crank out some jokes about Cinderella and a metal detector. They had a variety of northern hemisphere accents, and I’m not entirely sure they all knew we were talking about footwear. Shudder.

Bemused at yet another irrefutable example of my intractable vagueness, I resigned myself to the barefoot drive home and headed toward the clump of seal-people and my treasure-pile of poop and flotsam.

Behold! There beside the cuttlefish bone were my trusty Havs, stuck criss-cross fashion and heel-down in the sand.

Maybe it was the seal-people. Maybe it was Halti-woman. Maybe it was me. I have absolutely no idea.


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Disaster! LIVE

Queensland Floods. Cyclone Yasi. WA Bushfires. NSW State Election. Christchurch. Charlie Sheen. Sendai Earthquake and Tsunami.

So much DisasterPorn, so little time.

Hashtag Hashtag Hashtag.

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The Seventh Dwarf

I was sitting in a consultation room having just taken a brief history from a new patient. New to us, anyway. Not new to him – he had been referred to our team with his fourth recurrence of a particularly fickle malignancy. He’d been treated further afield, but this time decided he didn’t want the travel. Cynically, I wondered if his specialists had flicked us a literal hospital pass.

He needs a name. Let’s call him Mr Sherrin.

He was our last patient of the day. I took a good history. Talked with his wife. Had a look at the problem. It was pretty bad. Ugly, obvious, fast-growing, metastases all over the place. Disfiguring.

I handed over to the consultant. He and the registrar came back to the consult room and we all had another look and a feel and the consultant talked about treatment options. Cures are off the table, this is palliation. The treatment might slow things down or make them worse.

Mr Sherrin is not young but he’s not old either. Mrs Sherrin is visibly anxious but Mr Sherrin is quite calm. He wants to give it all he’s got. There is no hesitation as he opts for treatment.

I was watching the consultant, talking, feeling the lumps, asking questions of the Sherrins and the consultant. I wondered, for the umpteenth time, how oncologists deal with the daily load of poor prognoses. Who drinks? Who swims? Who prays? Who kicks the cat? Who washes their hands at the end of the day and leaves all the work in the sink?

Somewhere in amongst all this, Mr Sherrin and I had a long moment of eye contact. We knew what we knew. As that moment passed, I felt a rising tide of grumpiness.

Cue lightbulb.

I’m not welling up and I genuinely, honestly, don’t feel sad. I feel grumpy. Not about anything, or toward anyone.

I’m not angry with death, and I’m not afraid of it or uncomfortable around it. I know, and I feel, that I’m not part of the life and death stories around me any more than a flight attendant is part of a traveler’s holiday.

Something in the way I’m emotionally and intellectually processing what I’ve learned and experienced on this rotation is producing a consistent response, because that grumpiness has been here pretty much every night for a month.

I guess I shall stomp off somewhere soon and get my head read. Come up with a better plan. Life is not a Disney movie, but Grumpy is no way to be.

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