Tuesday, December 05, 2006

gnarls barkley

i have had the pleasure this week of meeting up a few times with another good canadian buddy, Dr Gnarls Barkley (his real name is VERY similar and i think that's hilarious). i first met Gnarls in his capacity as best man and organiser of a stag night for another good friend in vancouver last year.

happy days, with much meat, beer and rye consumed (not always in that order) and the town was set alight. that whole holiday actually supplied a good few anecdotes for the next few months. happy days (tear wiped from left eye).

over the past week he has accompanied me to the BJM at the Astoria and also a great dinner this weekend with his sister, brother-in-law and their fantastic new baby boy.

perhaps somewhat unfairly, Dr Barkley gets tarred with the hellraiser/nutter/crazy mofo brush because of many many historical exploits that he and the groom became embroiled in through university and beyond. i empathise with him as i too often get similarly tarred. Dr Barkley merely likes to let his hair down when he manages to have the time.

in his "normal life", he is an attending physician (read consultant NHS fans) in emergency medicine in Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. in a ferociously busy department, he works bloody hard, does lots of night shifts whilst not losing his humanity or sanity. he's also blessed with good looks (ten quid in post i'm told), a fabulous apartment and a handsome paycheque to take home at the end of the month.

despite being at the top of his game, i wonder if something changed in him over this and/or last year. (having said that i only met him in Sept 05 so it may have been brewing for a while before that). this perceived change culminated in him packing up his alberta life for a while, moving to London and pursuing a Diploma in Tropical Medicine at the London School (very prestigious, very difficult to get into.) during this course, seeds that had already been sown began to flourish and just under a year later he is preparing to quit his job again and head off as a volunteer with Medecins Sans Frontieres to Africa.

i have nothing but admiration: respect for him as a senior colleague and pride that someone i know can be brave enough to undertake such a noble odyssey.

and once again it triggers me to ask "there must be something more" than negotiating the depressing quagmire of exams/job applications/specialty training applications/on calls/going to the pub again/wandering around London. i wonder if gnarls asked himself the same question.

to be honest i'd be useless in Africa. there aren't many skills a physician (as compared to a surgeon or an anaethestist) could bring to a warzone or refugee camp in my opinion. "i understand that the injuries from landmines here are horrific but have y'all thought about reducing your risk of stroke with a statin?" beyond that, i don't think i'm brave enough. i'm not even brave enough to admit to myself that life is pretty shit stuck in a pathetic "at least i have enough money to live somewhere nice and go out every so often and take a holiday twice a year" existence. there must be something more. whoa. it always comes back to MY problems.

anyway Ms D&C and I bid him farewell on Sunday evening. i'm not sure that i'll see him before he disappears off to foreign plains and new adventures. so, if you happen to chance upon this, here's to you Gnarls Barkley. look after yourself, stay safe, and next time you pass through London there'll be an empty bar stool and a Staropramen waiting for you.

[i am listening to Nothing To Say (and i don't actually) by The Strokes. still no exam results. although having just read what i've written i'm past the point of caring at the moment.]

[if you haven't already heard, the shiny happy person has returned]


Anonymous said...

something closer to home perhaps?


Anonymous said...

I think you're selling yourself a bit short by claiming you have nothing to offer to Africans in a war zone. Granted, you might have to brush up on your dysentery and trypanosomiasis....

Anonymous said...

How the hell do you know these people?!?!?!?! You're unbelievable. You're, like, the in-dude of the Edmonton music scene. It's nuts. I know people who would KILL to be you.

Anywho... having said that, keep in mind that the Canadian dollar goes a lot further than the British pound in terms of cost of living. I had a nice apartment across from a hospital in Edmonton (one bedroom, pretty large by British standards) for $702/month - About 330 pounds. Including heat and water and power and such.

So, yes, doctors here are paid all right, but their money also goes further. And to hear them talk about it, they really don't have it that great. It would be really interesting to conduct an in-depth comparison study of Canada's healthcare system and the UK's... We could probably both learn from both the successes and failures.

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