2017 in brief: My mother’s life was celebrated with an excellent funeral. I reduced my work load and became a student again. I holidayed with friends in the French Alps, Italy and Tanzania. I enjoyed literary and music festivals in Wales, England, Scotland and Indonesia.
Willy died peacefully, aged 92, after a short illness in spring. She was in her room at Glanenig residential home with excellent palliative care. Her room looked like a Dutch interior painting with her bed, pictures and spring sunlight pouring in. Her relatives and godchildren had visited her in her last weeks. She would have enjoyed the positive celebration of her life in Llowes Church and Clyro tea party. Family and friends from across her life came, celebrating her medical work, her life as a vicar’s wife and her retirement in the Wye valley. Thanks to everybody who supported me then. I enjoy her home in Wales and the festivals Hay literary and Brecon Jazz. Modernising the home is my next project.
I holidayed with Les, Vera and Riff (dog) in their flat in St Gervais. Every day we walked out on the mountains and lunched with the Mont Blanc glaciers in view. We enjoyed unusual evening concerts at the Mont Blanc baroque festival; notably an Irish quartet playing traditional Irish harp carried up to a ski landing stage. I spent a few days in Paris with my friends Steph and Julia. Each time I visit Paris I follow the Time Out book of Paris walks, and visit new areas. This time I saw the Adam Wickiewicz museum about Polish émigrés to Paris. I had 4 days in Amsterdam, catching up with friends and family and having lunch on the very trendy Amsterdam tower with Willemien and Bart and family. My time with family and friends was restorative but also stimulating.
February was my last month on call consultant for infectious diseases at UCLH having completed 22 years in service (appointed 1995) and I am happy to be passing the baton on. I still do my specialist leprosy and skin clinics at HTD. MY NHS job has changed hugely with more patients, more investigations and electronic records. Then we provided a specialist service in a different hospital with no ITU and the patients were travellers, migrants and missionaries. Now we work in the 16 floor modern block and are part of the teams providing acute infection services for Camden and the patients are drug users and complex elderly and many have drug resistant bugs. We have bright young doctors working with us but the teams are more fragmented. I was the first women consultant in the service, now I have 4 female colleagues.
My Mondays are free and I studied non-fiction writing at City University. I loved the stimulation of being a student but still did my homework at the last moment. My fellow students were interesting; age range 26-70 with backgrounds in finance, academia, and charity work. We read out our homework in class and I learnt the power of storytelling. The election and the Grenfell Tower fire became topics for our written work. My first published piece was my mother’s obituary (The Guardian June 24). Our tutor Peter Forbes was a published poet who encouraged us. I plan to write stories about leprosy.
I acted in a drama “Deeds not words” recreating the all female suffragette run military hospital in Covent Garden in 1917, This was an immersive drama and the audience came into the space of the Swiss church and experienced the life of the hospital. Wounded soldiers were carried in from the street; bandages were in short supply. I played Helen Chambers a pathologist who worked on treatments for wounds. I enjoyed the teamwork and creating the atmosphere of the hospital and I identified with the pathologist. (photos on my blog).
Work continues to be busy. The ENLIST global consortium linking the top leprosy research centres is developing under the leadership of my colleague Steve Walker. Our last meeting was in Indonesia. My mother was born there when my grandfather was a water engineer in Java. His passion was improving sanitation so the working toilets pleased me. Indonesian food is a treat for me. I had a long weekend in Bali and my stay in Ubud, the cultural centre over lapped with the literary festival and I enjoyed talks on short story writing, seeing photos of the spice islands. I tried out a bamboo bike. The volcano nearly erupted just after I left.
This year has been depressing politically. Brexit will have a negative impact on my life because as a doctor, academic and scientist I experience many benefits from the EU. I have been active in the local Labour party, fortunately Momentum is not active in our ward. I am sorry that Corbyn is not providing a robust anti-Brexit opposition. Three of my friends who live in Europe have become EU citizens. Trump’s presidency is turning out worse than I imagined. Seeing the rise of intolerance has been sobering.
Nina Goldman lived in the house for 14 months as a DTMH student and then worked on the ITU at Kings. She was accepted by MSF as a medical volunteer. She is working in Bangladesh in a camp with 500 000 Rohingya refugees, many with malnutrition and trauma. She manages a team of Bangladeshi doctors. Working with MSF allows her to implement solutions that would take months otherwise. MSF have been tweeting her reports.
I feel connected to the crisis.
Gardening in Arlington Square has been fun and maybe our 50 acers helped us win the prize for best small park in London. I improved my own garden by having the big trees taken out and the bricks put on a firm foundation, it looks Mediterranean. There were three weddings this year, my friends Simon and Maggie who had a book themed wedding in Westminster and then Faye Goldman and Tom married in Hackney with music themes.
I enjoyed exhibitions marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution, and I am inspired to plan a long trip exploring the country. Many exhibitions captured the enthusiasm of the revolution and then huge downside of Stalinist repression for artists and journalists. My best play was “The Ferryman” by Jez Butterworth. Set in N. Ireland the play captures several generations experiences of civil war. It had resonance far beyond N Ireland. Women’s achievements were celebrated in the film “Hidden Figures” about the bright black female American mathematicians behind the NASA space programme. The ballet “Rain” performed in Edinburgh to Steve Reich’s “music for 18 instruments” was a wonderful array of running figures. Shashi Tharoor ‘s book “Inglorious Empire” was a devastating critique of the British Raj in India which failed Indians on many levels. I felt embarrassed for our colonial sins.
Enjoy the Solstice and may 2018 be a good year.