Now and again (and again)

‘I have a cunning plan,’ sayeth Baldric…

‘Do you dare countermand my divine instruction?’ Sayeth the Emperor Mong.

And then there’s the ‘Good Idea’ fairy…

Besides all these fine helpful folk we have the generous intervention of natural disaster, plain accident (and not just the ones looking to happen thanks to the intervention of the above-mentioned) and of course illness and the natural consequences of age.

I might be talking about the core of many a great novel – which, as often as not, are about dealing with the above, or the consequences of the same. Actually, I was referring to my weekend. For a change it wasn’t me listening to the great advice of the sage Baldric, the Imperial commander Mong, and eternally charming and beguiling Good Idea fairy. I’m sure they were as busy as ever, but their great work did not result in a demand for medical help, at least not here on our island. I was doing something that really was a good idea.

No. REALLY. Not a Good Idea fairy good idea, but one designed to help with the consequences of her good ideas.

You don’t believe me, do you?

Hmph. I’ll have you know that Ambulance Officers are ranked as the most trustable people, even narrowly eclipsing Fireys. That’s why all the puppy kickers trusted and believed me, and not ChinaMike ™ ‘cause no one trusts them ‘revenuoors’. Oh… wait. Oh well. There goes another good theory.

None-the-less, it actually is true, and exactly what I spent the weekend at – Ambulance Service training. We’re all volunteers and from a range of backgrounds. Our lot, anyway, are pretty much who you’d choose to ride the river with, who you’d love to have around when any of the above factors come into play. I’m very proud to be a very minor and junior part this group. We do 10-12 twelve hour on-call shifts a month, and a call is typically three hours chewed out of your day or night. It’s stressful, enormously responsible and physically and mentally demanding at times. And, yes, we help, and at times will put our lives and health at risk, for anyone who needs it. Anyone. (Which as you know from the gospel according Irene Gallo is what people who are nasty Nazis, sexists, homophobes etc. etc. do. Good people stay at home and join PC internet lynch mobs, or, if they’re really giving a lot to society join protest marches to silence people whom they disagree with.)

I spend a lot of time worrying that I’m going to screw up, because I have (possibly) someone’s life or at least well-being in my hands. Now, I do this diving (my buddy’s life) and climbing (my second and party’s lives). But there I actually have a reasonable idea of what I’m doing and how to manage best. I’m an utter obsessive perfectionist (and a martinet to boot, to those who do these things with me, alas), which comes through in my writing – which is not a good thing. I really, really don’t know enough human medicine and ambulance practice to make this a comfortable experience for me (for what it is worth, the same is true of writing books. I still spend a lot of time and effort trying to get better at it.)

So training weekends are something I really value, that I try to put as much mental focus into as I can. Okay, so there are some very good inappropriate jokes about our new training dummy – who according to the box she came in is called Ann. We had interesting times getting her electronics working, which as I’d been thinking about a ‘some-assembly-required’ IKEA style sexbot story and talking about it, was particularly fraught with bad puns. As she appears male (she has no hands or feet… or boomps-a-daisy) she’s been renamed trans-Ann. I think the jokes kind of go with doing something terribly serious – which no one is playing the fool about. They’re common in surgery and on grim search and rescue. Not on TV of course – but in reality. TV surgery and TV S&R show awfully earnest people. Which they are… they’re also coping with stress in a very psychologically appropriate manner – which at times includes laughing at it.

This weekend, particularly Sunday, however was really particularly great – because after the theory refreshers, our trainers put us through a series of scenarios with our poor hapless second dummy (who has legs. Her arms seem to have come adrift…) where we actually used our ambulance and the gear – quite a lot of times. In daylight. Without any real fear that dummy would die or feel pain. We still worked as if she would, but it lets you concentrate better without that worry.

You get faster, better, and far more confident. You also have your mistakes pointed out (and our trainer was great, making it about learning, not ‘you idiot’.) We WANT to learn. Doing the same basic stuff – getting a stretcher into an ambulance for example, or taking obs, over and over, so you don’t have to think about it, so you can concentrate on the real medical problems. Also… you start to see your own flaws (mine: being far too inclined to take charge. Which is all very well when you are the most experienced and do know what to do. This is not true of me.)

In case you hadn’t worked out: I was also writing… about writing. A lot of us are busy writing books. Books to sell, books as a final product. If we step back at all: it is to learn about the theory, the methods (marketing for example). That’s good and valuable. But… there is enormous value in writing NOT for your book (you can use it, perhaps) Just writing, where per se, the outcome does not matter. The piece is done as best as possible, but you can shred it, you pick the story apart, you can pick up faults, you can experiment and try doing things differently. That’s what it is for. Not to sell but just make yourself comfortable with your tools and skills. So when you go back to that book… you can focus on making it a great story, because the other stuff is muscle memory.

Even if you don’t do it like this: write a lot. In my opinion it is better to push through a reasonable volume than endless fuss on two sentences a day (yes, I do know a ‘literary’ author who does just that. I think her work sucks).

I know, some people get it right first time. Most of us don’t.



  1. Reading about the armless legless “Trans” Ann reminds me of a song that I’m going to let people google (or duckduckgo) for. “My Girlfriend’s a vegetable”

      1. I heard quite a few when I was an air-evac pilot. What you didn’t want to hear was (as the flight nurse tossed bags in for me to load before they brought the patient) “This [person]’s soul is with G-d. [Their] body just doesn’t know it yet.” That wasn’t a fun flight.

  2. In physical therapy school and training weekends etc. there are endless jokes, many of which involve finding toes in the whirlpool bath. These all became much funnier when one of my classmates really found a toe in the whirlpool.

    In gross anatomy cadaver lab, (which was about the worst experience of my life so far) all the bodies get names. My group’s body was Ahhhnold. The Terminated.

    The alternative to making tasteless jokes is mental and moral pain. The joke will get you through an otherwise harrowing experience, whereas the serious and sober approach seemingly favored by SJWs everywhere will get you nightmares and a mental health emergency.

    Just one more reason I quite despise all these scolds with their wagging fingers out there, having a collective hissy because somebody told a joke. Those jokes keep you alive an functional in a hostile world that never stops finding new ways to kill or cripple you.

    And speaking of vegetables, what is the hardest part of a vegetable to eat?

  3. Three things to keep in mind for the rescue medic:
    1. All bleeding eventually stops.
    2. Everybody eventually dies.
    3. If you drop the baby, pick it up.

    There are similar sets of important guidelines for other professions.

  4. Dark humor is best humor. 😝
    I definitely understand the concept of practice makes perfect, or at least less awful.

    1. I’ve always leaned toward dark humor, and have cracked my share of dark jokes. My father-in-law, who used to help drag for drowning victims, did as well.

      Then one day it turned out I knew a victim after I’d made a quip, and my father-in-law didn’t go out to help drag for bodies anymore. He just couldn’t.

      That’s what made the death of Robin Williams so hard for us who turn to humor as a vent and a means of dealing with dark things. For if humor failed for him, what does that mean for the rest of us?

      1. To be fair, he had broken neurotransmitters his whole life. So it wasn’t just dark humor in the face of tragedy; it was dark humor in the face of tragedy AND the black dog.

  5. I once participated in an online writers’ board where one topic was research questions.

    We could get pretty silly about some of the morbid questions. (The one that really set us off was the discussion on whether pickling a human corpse was feasible.)

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