Sunday, June 03, 2007

We want more NHS clinical psychologists

Tell that to number 10

Add your name to the petition here:

Saturday, June 02, 2007


1. The community spirit behind sectarianism on both sides
2. We beat England 1-0 and made a song about it
3. We have 5 seasons; as well as Autumn, Spring, Winter and Summer we
have the riot season (also known as marching season)
4. We have more terrorist organisations than the middle east
5. The home of Harp; the pint we call our own
6. We are so good, the English ripped off the look we call steek/milly
and called it chav
7. The home of the petrol bomb
8. The only place where you will have your car stolen and thieves will try and sell it back to you
9. The only country where people will fight over Rangers and Celtic and
not know any players in the teams
10. Our riot squad are so good that they train the English police riot
11. The average teenager can make at least 3 different types of
12. The only country Germany are afraid of

Friday, May 18, 2007

WTF you doing?!

I started a new job this week in a learning disabilities team. I like working in learning disabilities - it keeps life interesting.

Thus far, I've met with lots of other professionals...and each time, I've been told horror stories about the ways in which care staff behave towards the people they care for. I have no doubt that the stories are true and that such outrageous occurances happen frequently. I've worked in this area before...I know...

Typically what happens is that care staff (the people who work with the person every day) find the person difficult to deal with, refer to some outside professionals, who go in and think "OMG, WTF you doing?!" and tell the care staff to get their acts together, whereupon the professional is dismissed with "You don't work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week and clean up shit so you don't know what you're talking about."

But it makes me wonder, what happens to people when they work in institutional environments that makes them behave in outrageous ways? Sometimes it makes me think about Zimbardo's prison experiment and how ordinary students took so easily to the roles (prison guard and prisoner) assigned to them and became torturer and tortured. (If anyone wants an unsettling but deeply relevant read, Zimbardo's new book, 'The Lucifer Effect' is an excellent account of the prison experiment and exploration of current horrors such as Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq from a psychological point of view.)

Anyway...from Abu Ghraib back to the local residential homes for people with learning disabilities. What is it that makes people who go into this job to care (and I've no doubt that the vast majority of care staff start with compassionate motivation) that turns people to do dangerous, stupid, thoughtless and, at times, abusive things? What is it that fuels the us and them mentality between care staff and the people they care for?

Or perhaps even more importantly, what is it in my work that turns me from someone who wants to be compassionate and empowering, into someone who oppresses and disempowers? What is it that I do that I cannot see? What is it that creates an us and them mentality between outside professionals and on the ground care staff?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter stories

And the son of man hatched from a chocolate egg which dropped serendipitously on to the lap of the Madonna as the easter bunny hopped by.

Well, Somerfield got it wrong ;)

(For those who don't know Somerfield is a UK supermarket chain.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

When work comes home

For the last year, autistic spectrum disorders seem to have become a running theme in my working life. I worked as an assistant psychologist in a learning disabilities service where there were lots of people with autism. My first placement as a trainee also had a special focus on autism in children. (Apparently, my next placement will be continuing in this vein.)

That's great - I like working with people with autism. Its interesting - and its certainly different! Although, I must admit, ADHD is still my passion, increasingly so as I've recently met some people who are engaged in some really constructive dialogue which seems to go far beyond the shallow "Is it real, is it made up?" fighting that seems to dominate the field sometimes.

However, I have found out one of my cousins is being assessed for autistic spectrum disorder. This is a big family secret, so naturally, everyone knows. Of course, everyone is forbidden to talk to me as I "know too much". Consequently, the phone has been ringing of the hook.

It does feel wierd to be giving "advice" to family members - especially when its all such a great big secret. Apparently, I did not email my aunt lots of reading materials to pass on to my other aunt. No no no - she found them on the internet somewhere, definately not from me, because, I do not know.

I love my family - everyone talks about the elephant in the room to everyone else, but pretends no-one else knows about it. Honestly, family therapy with my extended family would be an absolute raucous, perhaps I will suggest it.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Partner dude left me alone for the weekend - apparently a stag weekend was more important than me :(.

I decided to cook him a roast dinner as a surprise for when he got home, a major surprise as I seldom cook roast dinners. However, that might be about to change thanks to Nigella.

I made this little beauty - beautiful because it takes about 5 minutes preparation and then you forget about it while it cooks for 2 hours, filling the house with the scent of lemons and thyme, finally to be rewarded with the most juicy, tender chicken pieces when it is time to eat.

I also managed some perfectly roasted potatoes thanks to Delia, although I used olive oil rather than lard or dripping and didn't bother putting the baking tray over the hob - I just put the potatoes in and coated them quickly!

Some lightly steamed fine asparagus on the side made it just perfect.

Now I'm eating the left over chicken and beautifully sour/bitter lemon pieces for lunch. Perfect. It feels like spring is here at last!

The recipe, from Nigella online.

1 chicken (approx. 2-2.25kg), cut into 10 pieces (I used 4 big chicken breasts)
1 head garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
2 unwaxed lemons, cut into chunky eighths
small handful fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
150ml white wine
black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC/gas mark 3.
Put the chicken pieces into a roasting tin and add the garlic cloves, lemon chunks and the thyme; just roughly pull the leaves off the stalks, leaving some intact for strewing over later. Add the oil and using your hands mix everything together, then spread the mixture out, making sure all the chicken pieces are skin side up.
Sprinkle over the white wine and grind on some pepper, then cover tightly with foil and put in the oven to cook, at flavour-intensifyingly low heat, for 2 hours.
Remove the foil from the roasting tin, and turn up the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6. Cook the uncovered chicken for another 30-45 minutes (I checked mine after 20-25 minutes and the breasts were done - perhaps they do more quickly than other chicken pieces, so I just recovered it with foil while the potatoes finished off, to keep them from drying out - the lemons were carmelised at the edges too), by which time the skin on the meat will have turned golden brown and the lemons will have begun to scorch and caramelise at the edges.

Serves 4-6

If anyone else has a go at this, let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Norn Iron

I lived in Norn Iron (known to the rest of the world as Northern Ireland) for the first 18 years of my life. There are a few things I miss. Firstly, spelga yoghurts. Secondly, dale farm ice-lollies. Thirdly, Maud's ice-cream (suddenly I see a theme...)

However, mostly I miss the Northern Irish sense of humour (aka craic), particularly that provided by The Hole in the Wall Gang. (And, btw, Patrick Kielty was absolutely hilarious before he went to was all downhill from there!)

In fact, partner dude and I got to know each other because he had caught an epidsode of Give My Head Peace late and night and I decided to join him for the next installment. Nothing like laughing at Uncle Andy to get you in a romantic mood...(hmmm, perhaps not.)

Now, thanks the the wonders of youtube I can have a regular intake of Ulster's finest humour, and so can you...enjoy

Part 1 of a whole episode

Part 2 of a whole epidsode

Part 3 of a whole episode

Derek stops a bank robbery

Derek prevents a terrorist attack

Derek argues with God

Derek solves the Arab-Israeli conflict

Derek raises the dead

Friday, March 30, 2007

Its all about the water bills!

Whoever would have thought? This week, arch enemies Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams decided to sit down together and share power in Northern Ireland.

This historic move has coincided with the British government's decision to issue water bills to the people of Northern Ireland (something we have never had to pay for). They have come together and told the British government not to issue the water bills due this week! (I kid you not!)

Historic times? Well definately, if these two are willing to sit down together. Perhaps there is a future in Northern Ireland where we will get by without paramilitary violence and find a peaceful way to live together.

For me, growing up in Belfast, only time will tell. Old wounds don't heal quickly, but perhaps if we can finally stop opening them time and time again...

I'll leave you with the plea of a 12 year old boy, who was murdered by a "real IRA" bomb blast in Omagh, 15th August 1998. I desperately hope our political leaders and those who are still agitating towards violence in Northern Ireland will hear him.

"Orange and Green it does not matter,
United now, don't shatter our dream,
Scatter the seeds of peace over our land, so we can travel
Hand in hand, across the Bridge of Hope."
~Sean McLaughlin, aged 12.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Happy birthday to me...

My birthday presents from partner dude. Nice...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I have a confession to make. I am addicted to spinning and just added another class to my schedule. That's 3 classes a week - oooh, squeeze my ass. (No seriously, if anyone wants buns of steel, spinning is definately the way to get them!)

It was my post-PhD resolution to get fit - and getting fit I have been getting ;). I only wish I'd done it earlier - genuinely, I feel brighter, more energetic and proud of myself. The latest studies have found exercise to be as good as anti-depressants and cognitive-behaviour therapy (the treatment of choice for depression) in reducing mild depression and I'm certainly seeing the effect on my general mood (although I have not been depressed, in case anyone is worried!)

Next stage (on the persuasion of one of my spinning instructors)....weight training :O

Now, I have to keep this up as the demands of my clinical training get tougher!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Health care for people with learning disabilties

I'm glad to see this is being taken seriously. People with learning disbilities do endure substandard health care because most professionals are clueless about the issues and ways of working positively with people with learning disabilities.

Personally, I have loved my work with people with learning disabilities, and learned a tremendous amount about being human from being around people who our society devalues - when you can't get a PhD, earn a fortune, or take care of yourself, sometimes I think what is left is pure, unadulterated human-ness. It reminds me to value people for people and not their achievements or status.

But its not easy and people with learning disabilities get a shocking deal in the health service. I hope they look into mental health services too, because they are dire for people with learning disabilties (an extremely serious issue as people with learning disabilities are at high risk for developing mental health problems). What is sometimes the most shocking is the attitudes and general lack of knowledge in staff in some settings. I once had to explain to a senior staff member in mental health who asked, "Well how do we know if its psychosis or just his learning disability" that "Hearing voices is not a symptom of learning disabilities. If he's hearing voices and its causing distress its psychosis and should be treated as such."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Quakers go Cyber

I've just been reading Jez's blog, Quaker Street to find that blogging Friends (aka Quakers) are taking British Yearly Meeting (annual gathering of Quakers from throughout Britain) into cyberspace this year on a new blog.

I look forward to reading it!

Birthday cake

I baked this for partner dude's birthday, quite a masterpiece I think :)

Underneath the layers of pure milk chocolate, gourmet smarties, and the very best pink and yellow marshmallows, there was, in fact, a very beautiful, bitter-sweet chocolate and red wine cake from Gennaro Contaldo's fantastic recipe book, "Passione".

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

5 favourite quotations

I have been tagged by Mikayla Starstuff to give my 5 favourite quotations. Here's her list.

Here's mine:

"Never again will a single story be told as though it's the only one" - John Berger

"Had she thought there was no meaning in life, no purpose, when God had gone?...'Well there is now,' she said aloud, and again, louder: 'There is now...We have to be all those difficult things, like cheerful and kind and curious and patient, and we've got to study and think and work hard, all of us...and then we'll build...the Republic of Heaven." Lyra, In 'The Amber Spyglass', Philip Pullman

"I'm not trying to counsel any of you to do anything really special
except to dare to think, and to dare to go with the truth, and to dare
to really love completely." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"Truth is my authority, not some authority my truth." - Mary Dyer

"If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever." - Woody Allen

(I was hard pressed to find a Woody Allen quotation - because I love his stuff! Partner dude and I are getting really into him - totally hilarious! Just what I need after a heavy work day.)

Now, I have to tag some I'll tag Claire, Peterson, Ash, Tim and Rachie.

PS. Oh sod it, here's my 5 favourite Woody Allen quotes (6 if you include the one above):

"Basically my wife was immature. I'd be at home in the bath and she'd come in and sink my boats."

"I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me."

"I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick. Not wounded. Dead."

"If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative."

"Is sex dirty? Only if it's done right."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oops, I did it again

Patricia Hewitt says that closing beds in the NHS is a sign of success

Sack this woman now!.

If you want to know what's really going on in the NHS, find out from its frontline staff - here's my favourite round up of NHS blogs.

The one, the only, Dr. Crippen, a GP
Trick cycling for beginners - a SHO psychiatrist with a heart
Nip Fuct, summing up NHS life
Dr Rant - a collection of NHS docs telling it like it is
Hospital phoenix

Find out more about 'The Sound of Bullshit' - set to be a modern day musical classic at Dr Informed

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Knit a boob for the NHS

Such is the funding crisis, that some NHS services cannot afford to buy fake boobs to teach new mothers, particularly mothers of premature babies who have difficulties feeding, how to breast feed.

So - now they're knitting their own. I kid you not - read the full story here!

Anyway, speaking of boobs in the NHS, if you're not impressed with the current Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt then you can sign the petition to have her sacked here. I wouldn't normally sign something so negative - I try to see the good in people and recognise that people have hard jobs to do and have to make tough decisions (nothing could be more true of current NHS staff, might I add, working in the face of government targets and beaurocracy, job cuts, recruitment freezes etc. One service I know of had 2 senior OTs leave, one through ill-health, and one because she sadly died from cancer, leaving one experienced, but relatively junior, OT to manage a very busy service single-handedly. Did they recruit anyone else? NO - recruitment freeze. Did they reduce the service's workload - NO - government targets must be met, and more importantly a lot of people needed OT input.)

But, Patricia Hewitt's grip on the NHS has led to the lowest morale ever amongst NHS staff, I have never heard such anxiety or angry frustration amongst people who are usually pretty robust in the face of challenges and change. Never before have large numbers of newly qualifed staff, particularly newly qualifed nurses faced the possibility of unemployement after graduation. Although it doesn't make headline news - newly qualified clinical psychologists have faced similar difficulties - incidentally, after the government (i.e. tax payers) have spent £100,000 each on our training! Never before has a health secretary been booed by nurses or pushed nursing unions so far that they threaten strike action. And still, this woman has the unbelievable audacity to say "2006 was the best year ever for the NHS". She is either lying or living on another planet - perhaps both.

This is an official petition, and you must be a UK citizen to sign have a think about whether you think Patricia Hewitt's record with the NHS just isn't good enough for our national health service and sign your name here if you think enough is enough.

My only worry is who might replace her...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ukrainian student fun

Ukrainian students' practical joke

Go on, click, you know you want to! Its very very very funny!

Friday, January 26, 2007

I heart study days

Today is a study day - I am meant to stay at home and study independently.

Of course, what I actually do is lie in, cook myself breakfast, phone partner dude and meet him for lunch in I did all this and then I had a sudden compulsion to walk into a rather swank hairdressers. As it turned out someone had just cancelled an appointment with one of their male hairdressers and they asked if I wanted it. I have had great experiences with two male hairdressers, both have been willing to take risks with my hair, talk me out of conservative styles and make me feel confident enough to let them loose. Today was no different, I somewhat impulsively said, "Ok, do whatever you like with my hair."

He did - I now have short hair at the back, long hair at the front, some very choppy layers and my hair is poker straight. Now I am nervously waiting partner dude's return from work. This is what study days are for.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie

I stumbled across this new sitcom on Canadian TV - its absolutely hilarious! It is about a small Muslim community in small town Canada.

"Mom, stop it with the guilt, no don't put dad on. I've been planning this for months, its not like I dropped a bomb on them. Look, if dad thinks its suicide, so be it! This is Allah's plan for me." So says the new Imam on the telephone to his disapproving parents in the queue at Toronto airport on his way to the new mosque in the can imagine what happens next.

Thankfully, some Youtuber is making it available to the rest of the world. It is split into two parts the first is here and the second, here. You'll need to excuse the advertising in the second part - try to see it as a more authentic cross-Atlantic television viewing experience...(yes, it's really irritating!)

I'm sure it will give you a real giggle!

I am hoping they post the next installment soon :).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New laws protecting gay rights

I am trying to work out how I feel about the new laws that make it illegal to refuse to provide services (e.g. a room in a guest house, a wedding photographer) to same sex couples. Here's one of the latest news items from the BBC about it, in case people aren't aware

On the one hand, I welcome anything that prevents discrimination and affords people equal status in our society. Imagine if a business refused to serve black people, or disabled people, we'd be appalled, and rightly so. But, as religious groups protest, saying the law requires them to act contrary to their faith, I can't help but wonder if the law is the right place to fight the battle.

We can change laws, but its going to take a lot more to change hearts and minds, and that's where real equality can be achieved. Imagine a society, where we didn't need anti-discrimination laws because we valued people for their race, culture, religion, abilities, sexuality etc., and gladly welcomed everyone.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Adult ADHD, not treated properly - too true!

The BBC have published an unusually sensible article (for the British media, they usually prefer parent-blaming, anti-psychiatry, unscientific, biggotted, stigmatising rhetoric when it comes to ADHD) about the lack of treatment for adult ADHD in the UK.

A while back I talked to a psychiatrist (a really nice one actually, who I get on extremely well with) about an adult client of mine who I was convinced had kidding, this person could not sit still, concentrate, fiddled and fidgetted...classic symptoms, and they were having an enormous impact on their day to day life.

So I called the psychiatrist who was involved with the person and asked if he minded if I did an adult ADHD screening test and whether he'd be willing to accept a referral for adult ADHD.

"Yes," he said, "and that client almost certainly has ADHD, their younger siblings certainly do."

"Oh great," I said, "so I will go ahead."

"There is little point," said the psychiatrist, "its pretty evident this is an organic condition for this person, but as they weren't treated with stimulant drugs as a child, we aren't able to prescribe them in adulthood."

"WHAT?!" I said, "that is madness! I cannot imagine the potential improvements in this client's life if some of these symptoms were under more control. I am fairly certain that a high proportion of their current problems are due to ADHD, and medication might well be hugely beneficial."

"Oh yes, "said the psychiatrist, "I quite agree. It is madness, but it is also policy."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thanks Peterson :)

For posting this reflection on the need for non-violent action to promote and spread peace & justice in the world.

The video was made for Martin Luther King day in the States, but I think the general message is just as pertinent in the UK.

I've been trying to think what my new year's resolutions might be. I've come up with the usual list...

-get fitter
-work smarter (not harder)

I've even gone and done my research on potential new fitness programs at the gym...(is a cardio combat class appropriate for a Quaker? ;P)

But actually, I think I should find a way of peace-making more actively and this presentation is a timely reminder. I'm reminded of something from Quaker Advices and Queries.

"Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society's conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?

Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand."
--Advices and Queries, Britain Yearly Meeting (emphasis mine)

I'll be going back to our Quaker meeting this Sunday after a month off with having been to Southampton to do my PhD viva and then staying with various family over the Christmas and new year holidays. I shall try to listen to where I should be going with my responsibility to promote peace and stand non-violently against acts of war and violence.

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it."
--M.L King

Thanks Peterson a timely inspiration as always.