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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with the new and in with the old

Time and all other human constructs are really arbitrary, so why we should stop and take stock of our lives, make resolutions and generally review and sort things on this day every year is one of those mysteries. In a season of garish artificiality, it's just another self-delusion to think that somehow, magically, things will change. I know pretty much for certain that I won't change very much, despite any good intentions I have. Intentions they will remain - unstated and personal to me.

Some things will change, of course. I'm to become a father again. I know precisely what this will entail, my partner does not. That'll be fun. My three existing daughters will get a half-sibling and my complicated, modern family will acquire a slightly different dynamic again. In this regard, stuff whirls around me while I'm at the centre. For a professional communicator, I'm really very bad at talking about things and if I have regrets over the way things have gone in the last decade, they would largely be around how I have handled (or haven't handled) things. I don't think I would change anything, but I would have established a comms plan first and stuck to it.

I turn 50 this incoming year. Many of my closest friends are a decade behind me. Actually, the gap is closing in that the life experience you gain between 40 and 50 only really cements who you already are. When I'm out with my chums, we're already the oldest people out so my particular position in the age hierarchy isn't important. There's to be a party. I don't know if I'm to arrange this myself but on behalf of the organising committee - YOU'RE invited. Terms and conditions apply, of course - it will be somewhere on the North Coast of Northern Ireland sometime near the end of June and my guest room is already booked. Oh, and no gifts, strippers or shenanigans. Thank you.

As a younger man I made a fair bit of money writing screenplays for other people which were never filmed. I have inverted this trend in recent times by publishing my own scribblings and having no-one buy them. I'm hoping that with a proper push the new subKultur imprint will become properly established as a channel for some new writing and music - my own but chiefly others' - in 2012. I don't really care about not selling any stories but I do care about doing something I enjoy and failing. Better that than to sit and regret the things I should have done. It might be simply that I'm not good enough at writing or brazen enough at self-promotion. One of those things, at least, can be fixed.

One of the revelations of the year has been Twitter (find me = @carlpeter). Read recently something along the lines of Facebook being about people you knew but you wished you didn't and Twitter being about people you largely didn't know but you wished you did. I intend to remedy this next year and meet a few of you (you're all invited to my party, remember?!). Would be invidious to name the good folks I have 'met' electronically this way in recent times but the chat and support and just general banter has been a genuine pleasure and a bonus. There's an industrial amount of dross, boasting, snobby whining, polemic and general unpleasantness there too (some of it from me, naturally), but it's worth wading through it for the gems. To all of you contributing twittery goodness to my life, a sincere 'thank you'.

There has been a fair bit of pain and distress in the wider family this outgoing year too. I hope the 2012 brings some respite/relief or at least better strategies for dealing with that which can't be changed. Change itself is the only constant, however. I know I'm going to abandon at least one long-held principle next year but if there is a theme to 2012, it's to be that I will be more selfish or, less perjoratively, more self-reliant.

To conclude, next year I'm going back to some of the things I have already tried: fatherhood, writing, maybe another year of playing the bass in a rock n roll band. No new fresh horizons, no alarms and no surprises. It could be a good year :-)

Have a good one.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now ...

So Wednesday found me sitting glumly in A&E with my dear old mother. You might think that a Wednesday lunchtime would not be the busiest time for such a department but, on this occasion at least, you would be mistaken. It took well over an hour to get to see the triage nurse. We were there six hours in all, the last couple of them parked in the plaster room next to an elderly lady waiting to be taken back to her nursing home by ambulance. Mother was finally admitted to a surgical ward and I got to go home to sort things out.

You may not have had the misfortune to have to attend A&E. It's nothing like Casualty on the TV. There are no dashing doctors and nurses squeezing in hectic love-lives and intrigue between charging the paddles, intubating patients and setting up the machine that goes 'ping'. The A&E staff move in a determinedly measured way. I realise now that this is a tactic. Nobody wants to see medical staff rushing towards them.

But A&E is a kind of Hell. Every patient is, by definition, in extreme distress. All want the magical touch of the doctor or relief by drugs. To the individual patient, everybody else is a nuisance, an obstacle for the medics to negotiate before they get to them. The soundtrack is a symphony of despair - this Wednesday it was the hacking cough, the whimpering girl, the vomiting, the moaning man and the soft bleeping of the machines. But you zone all of this out. In your cubicle you are waiting for the approaching footsteps, the swish of the curtain to signify that the doctor has come at last. All you can do is wait and wait and wait.

As we waited and waited, and I got crosser and crosser about the staff's elastic interpretation of 'soon' and 'in a minute', I thought about the recent strikes and the vitriol poured on public sector workers and their so-called golden pensions. As the A&E staff managed a seemingly endless torrent of frightened and hurting humanity, it put the dispute into perspective for me. Next time you think you're having a shitty day because your boss spoke harshly to you, or your computer was a bit slow and crabby, imagine you're the one who has to tell mum that her daughter's appendix is probably bursting, or the one to mop up the blood and shit from the cubicle floor. Chances are you'll solve that problem that's giving you a headache. Chances are there will be people in A&E that can't be fixed. On a Friday or Saturday night A&E staff may well be attacked by drunk people with busted noses, the same people who will read their tabloid newspapers and have large and forcibly expressed opinions about public sector pensions. 'Those people', the ones they despise, will be the ones giving them pain relief at 3.40am on a Saturday morning. And then come back again the next day to do it all again.