Work and Welcome home!

Monday to Thursday 14 – 17 October

Monday morning arrived after a disturbed night’s sleep coughing, sweating and shivering.  Still, I had to be at work at 8.30 so pulled myself together and joined the doctors for the ward round.  There were plenty of familiar faces amongst the nursing and ancillary staff, but only one doctor remained from the previous group I had worked with.  It was a surprise to see the medical wards so full with frail elderly people and a few younger men suffering the consequences of long term alcohol abuse.  There is increasing pressure on the health care system with the community care complex (CCC) built less than 10 years ago already over full and a growing proportion of the population reaching old age.  Bed-blocking in the acute wards (a term I heard and experienced often in my early years as a doctor in Aberdeen) is a reality here.

After completing the ward round, I headed to the Community Health Clinic in the old matron’s house behind the hospital.  There I met up with Ruth, the women’s health nurse and the departing Italian gynaecologist, who was ready to hand over.  He was scheduled to leave on Friday, but was planning to spend most of the week preparing for departure.  This made it easier for me as I could focus on picking up the clinics etc without worrying about ‘treading on his toes’.

Before I found Ruth, Alan had already found her and handed over a note on the back of a Hangjik card telling me the great news that we could go and look at Periwinkle Cottage in New Ground the following morning.  That breakthrough really did help the day pass more lightly.

Tuesday morning is operating day, but I have still to accumulate cases so was free to go with Alan to see Periwinkle Cottage for the first time.  The owner’s daughter-in-law showed us round the simple square-bracket shaped flat-roofed cottage where her husband had grown up.  In comparison to all the other properties we have seen, this was so much more what we have been looking for – and very much cleaner too, even though we had to repeatedly tell Linda this, who was repeatedly apologising for the state it was in.  We agreed on a Thursday move, giving time for a superficial tidy up and clean.

With impatience for the move, we sat out the rest of Tuesday and then Wednesday, continuing to enjoy Ivy’s cooking and Alasdair’s company.  We listened to a radio interview given by our fellow guest, Andy, the BA pilot who is here to inform the Saints about and research further on the business venture he is involved in which will see a new airline born: Atlantic Star, to fly from St Helena to the UK, probably via Madrid; to Ascencion Island; and to Cape Town.  All being well, flights should start in 2016.

On Wednesday evening we were at Lewis and Lauren’s for supper.  My previous dinner with them, shared with the Shropshire teachers, took place only days after they had moved in.  The house is now very much a home, complete with 13 month old Jack, and a dog – plus another dog temporarily staying too.  Lauren has a clavinova, and duet music!  Hopefully we can find time to play.

Thursday is antenatal day at work.  Together with the midwife, we saw six expectant mums, all at various stages of pregnancy.  Once the clinic was over, I met Alan and, after shopping to stock up the cupboards, we drove towards our new home.  Unfortunately, this was not so straightforward.  The police and fire service had closed the road from the hospital up the side of the steep valley due to a rock fall.  We had to turn back to the centre of Jamestown and wend our way up Ladder Hill Corner, close to my previous abode, on to Shy Road which is very narrow, steep and windy but thankfully just one way, before joining the ‘main’ road out of the west side of the valley higher up.  There were at least twenty vehicles stopped at the top who could not get down and, due to roadworks on the other side of the valley, could not find an alternative route; they had to sit it out until the police later reversed the ‘one way’ direction on Shy Road to relieve the congestion.  We were glad that we were going in one direction only ourselves – to our new house!

Derek and Linda were there to meet us.  They had managed to get through just minutes before the rock fall.  After sorting out the essentials such as meter readings, inventory etc, they left and we breathed a big sigh of relief that, at last, we could unpack our suitcases and make our own cup of tea!  The wind had been blowing fiercely all day.  Despite this, we threw open all the doors and windows to get rid of the musty smell of a building that has not been aired for some time.  The stronger smell of moth balls lingers but I have removed all the balls I have seen and stored them in the outside toilet to replace when we leave.

We felt ‘welcomed’ by the cottage and soon had the bed made and the first of three loads of washing on the go.  I cooked spaghetti for tea; back to simple fare after the varied three course meals Ivy has produced for us.

Periwinkle Cottage - home for the next three months.
Periwinkle Cottage – home for the next three months.

October 17th is St Luke’s Day; St Luke being the patron saint of doctors and surgeons (and butchers too, apparently).  I had been invited to attend an evening service for health workers in St John’s church, the Anglican church next to the hospital.  Alan and I drove down to join my medical and nursing colleagues plus others in a service lead by the vicar and bishop (who had just returned to St Helena via Ascencion Island on the newly arrived RMS St Helena).  The wind howled loudly outside, echoing around the steep sided non-ceilinged church roof and limiting the ability to hear what was being said.  However, the hymns were all good rousing ones including: Brother, sister, let me serve you; For all the Saints; Tell out my soul; and All hail the power of Jesus’ name.  Afterwards, the congregation (of around 30) were invited to the hospital for tea and eats.  I introduced Alan to some of my colleagues as well as to “bread and dance” sandwiches (bread and homemade tomato sauce) and the garish pink iced coconut covered sponge cake fingers that are a local speciality I’d forgotten all about.  We briefly chatted with the bishop and his wife, Jane, who is a dentist.  Alan had a long conversation with John, the pharmacist, who has an interest in the Balkans through a Bosnian family coming to his home town (? in Devon) while he was still at school.  We also talked with Lars, the recently arrived Danish GP who was interested to hear that Alan had worked with a Danish team during his most recent project in Kosovo.

Then, we were blown back up the hill along the now open Ladder Hill road back to Periwinkle and our first double bed for two weeks!

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