Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Balmy January

The bird of dawning singeth all night long
William Shakespeare
Hamlet (1601) act 1, sc. 1,

On the 7th February 2006, I entered an article on this blog entitled The Dawn Chorus (see link). I was intrigued by the fact that the local bird life had commenced its dawn chorus so early in the year.

Well, this year sees my earlier comments well and truly surpassed. For, as I write,the blackbirds have been in full melodious song for the past hour. Along with the various trees which are now in blossom, if that doesn't represent a sign of global warming, then I am not sure what does.

These may be ominous signs for many scientists. However, on a personal level, I cannot help but greet the unseasonal warmth and the earlier onset of the dawn chorus as bonuses to be enjoyed whilst one may.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Research I Can Warm To

The independent food research organisation, Leatherhead Foods International, has recently conducted a study on behalf of the Countryside Alliance. The results are music to my gastronomic ears.

Apparently, there are more benefits to eating game than previously realised. Meats such as pheasant, partridge, venison and quail are not only low in cholesterol, but additionally have high levels of selenium. Selenium boosts the immune system, may have an anti-oxidant effect (good in helping to prevent cancers) and can elevate mood.

Bearing in mind that a glass or two of red wine per day is also thought to have its benefits, what better way to ward off the winter blues than to partake in a meal of game, washed down by a decent glass of claret?

I haven’t had breakfast yet…but I am already looking forward to dinner…

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Whither the Vocation?

In an increasingly consumerist society, the word vocation does not often appear in the context of everyday conversation.

The word derives from the Latin vocare, ‘to call’. It is defined as ‘a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation, especially one requiring dedication. As such, it has most often been applied to the professions and, most particularly, to the practise of medicine, the Church and other humanitarian pursuits.

Historically, a vocation has been seen as something which gives great satisfaction to the person pursuing it and equally great benefits to those on the receiving end of that person’s efforts. However, the implication has usually been that the rewards received in following a vocation are not so much pecuniary than an inner sense of fulfilment. This, of course, is precisely where the concept clashes with the modern consumerist society.

As a doctor, I am conscious of the changes which have come about over recent years in respect to the way General Medical Practitioners work. No longer do they have to be responsible for the well-being of their patients for twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. The new GP Contract introduced a few years ago enabled GPs to opt out of ‘out of hours’ care, thereby freeing up their evenings and weekends. Of course, this was greeted with delight by the majority of GPs. We had never been properly paid for such work and now we had the opportunity to ‘have a real life’, being free to spend time with family and friends or develop other interests. Neither, of course, were we expected to work throughout the night and then go on to tackle full surgeries the following day in a state of near exhaustion.

However, I am also aware that the above welcomed changes in medical practice have brought with them a downside. Many patients will, of course, lament the passing of the twenty-four hour availability of their ‘own doctor’. However, there are downsides for the doctor as well. It was only when I was recently called on a Sunday morning by a good friend and neighbour who, living on his own, was unable to travel thirty miles to the nearest out-of-hours centre in his present poor state of health that I realised what I was missing. Having visited my friend, I was in the process of collecting some medication for him from an otherwise empty surgery in an otherwise empty market town centre, when it dawned upon me that I was actually enjoying that very process. Stopping to think about this revelation for a few moments, I realised that I missed the relative intimacy of caring for patients within their own homes, at odd times of the day and night, along with the concomitant sense of satisfaction that being able to assist someone in a time of need (for no particular personal gain other than that sense of worth) brings with it.

Summarised in one sentence, I was missing that very aspect of my work which engenders a sense of vocation.

Grayson Perry is a well known transvestite artist who, in 2003, won the Turner Prize for his work. As he was being interviewed by Melvyn Bragg on a recent episode of The South Bank Show, Perry came out with the comment “I define myself by my work.”

How true that statement must be for a great many of us.

I see a sense of vocation in many people around me and not least of all amongst those members who work, either salaried or on a volunteer basis, for the charity, The St John Ambulance. One often wonders what drives the volunteers to give up their free time, often for many hundreds of hours per year, to be available to render first aid at public events. It is the same factor which drives many of the salaried staff to put in many hours of unpaid overtime and to be prepared to give up their Christmas and New Year plans (as they were prepared to do at short notice recently) all with the aim of assisting their fellow man in need.

I believe that vocation is that sense of worth which makes our jobs, our lives and the immediate world in which we live, that extra bit special.

We do not have to be persistently driven by what is increasingly termed the disease of “affluency”. As is written in the Bible (Ephesians ch. 4, v. 1):

‘I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.’

One of my New Year resolutions is to re-focus on my personal sense of vocation. If you are finding your own life lacking that certain intangible factor that health, wealth and love otherwise fails to bring, then I would strongly urge you to do likewise. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Thought for the Day

It is almost one year since I started this blog. During that time some one hundred and forty two pieces have been posted and the site has attracted almost two thousand hits. Now, I accept that, compared to some blogs, two thousand is not a large number. However, I feel that such a number is a happy start. It is also rewarding to see that some readers stay for anywhere between 5 minutes and one hour, reading many pages at one sitting. I only wish more people would add a comment or two; feedback is always helpful and interesting to have, even if it is sometimes controversial.

The most recent problem has been finding the time to write for the blog. I do realise that writers are always making such excuses. However, I can assure you that it is true! I am reminded of a quote, although I am afraid that I cannot attribute it:

I'm just catching up with yesterday; by tomorrow I should be ready for today.

That just about sums up the current situation. However, one of the New Year's resolutions is to re-light the blogging candle. So, thank you for your interest and, in the words of a certain television programme, stay tuned...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Linguistic Leaders

According to an article by Michael Legat in a recent copy of the Writing Magazine (January 2007, Page 17), it is predicted that the English Language will soon contain one million words.

This compares to 100,000 words in the French language.

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions!

The Power of Love

Looking through my writing archives for the month of March, I came across the following article, initially published in my weekly column for...