Mar 07 2013

Middle Eastern coffee

Tag: UncategorizedKal @ 9:20 am



I think I'll just have mine black….

Mar 06 2013

Dubai calling

Tag: UncategorizedKal @ 9:16 am

Ten days in the UAE, because if you have friends who live somewhere hot and you live somewhere not just cold, but cold and slate grey, you'd be bloody daft to knock back the offer of a bed for a week.

It's lovely, a week of waking to “ooooh, it's going to be lovely”; being out in the mid day sun and going “Ooooh, you fucker, that's proper hot…but I think I'll bask in it for another half hour…” and then dining in the evenings on balconies as warm evenings winds blow across the Gulf.

That said, one evening we ate dinner on the shoreside and watched a massive container ship burn (I'd say burn to the ground, but that would be untrue, I guess it burned to the water?).

I watched Chinese opera once over my dinner…it was almost as entertaining as watching a major maritime disaster. Beats telly with scran on your knees.


Halfway through the week my hosts casually mentioned that they had to go into Dubai, as they host a healthcare related radio show once a week. Did I fancy coming along? In fact, fuck it, did I fancy being on air?

I'm a gobby git with a penchant for trying new things, who loves when people listen to me talk, would I like to spout nonsense to an entire nation?

Let's do it.

Into a studio, meet the resident DJ, shake hands and say hi and establish we have mutual friends (because the expat community in the Middle East is fabulously incestuous) and then we're on air.

It should be said that a paramedic is an unlikely person to be on a healthcare phone in, as the healthcare issues I'm most au fait with aren't the sort of thing that one bothers the average “long time listener, first time caller” – “Hi Jim, love the show…I'm currently being disembowelled by a Dobermann and I was wondering…”

But joining in was still lots of fun, even though I was being asked for my opinion on chickenpox, piles, bed wetting and headlice. And as I walked out I thought to myself “that was great…I wonder if I could do more radio back at home…?”

And then I realised that I have quite enough to be getting on with just now and chalked it up to experience.

Feb 08 2013

Where do we go to?

Tag: UncategorizedKal @ 7:26 pm

Where does this appear?

Jan 09 2013

Turn Up and Be There.

Tag: UncategorizedKal @ 12:00 pm

During the long weeks that Caden Beggan was in hospital, I spent many days there too.

That first visit was tough, but less awkward than I’d feared. Conversation flowed as we discussed the doctors’ plans, Caden’s progress, the family’s resilience or otherwise.

As I left I hugged people and told them that, if they didn’t mind, I’d like to come back next week?

“Please do…” they replied and I smiled back at them, grateful for the welcoming invite.

As the weeks went on, I visited more frequently; every couple of days towards the end.

There were hours when we all sat together, when some of us broke away, or chased each other out of the door – “Go take a shower, we’ll call you if anything changes, we promise.”

There were times when Caden’s immediate family were gone, deep in discussion with surgeons, horse trading and negotiating over inches of lost and gained tissue, debating whether to cut or to wait.

During those times we sat in the waiting room, or the cafe, drinking crap coffee and too many cakes.

And we chatted. About anything. Our jobs, our families, our day yesterday and plans for the next week. We got to know each other, be we friends, colleagues, siblings from over seas or parents. We fused together into a tight little gang, “the hospital crowd”, as we came to be known.

There were days where there was stuff to be done. Lifts to be given, food to be prepared, children to be ferried from one house to another. We’d squabble over who would complete each task, sometimes because the drive to complete a tangible task was so attractive, sometimes because you could see that the person offering to go home and do laundry was so emotionally knackered they could probably go an extra few hours of sleep instead.

Each time we’d leave we’d let one another know when we hoped to return.

“Please do…” they’d say, though differently now.

Because as time went on that phrase became more of a request than an invite.

“Please come.”

I was baffled, as I was doing nothing while I was there.

Many days were spent just taking up a chair in the hospital dining room.

As a male emergency worker, my entire life is focussed on “making it better” and finding solutions for people. The concept of turning up to a crisis just to be there is not one that sits comfortably with me.

Regardless, I was able to see, if not comprehend, the strength that our attendance gave Caden’s parents. I don’t know why it helped, but having a crowd around held them up and push them forward.

In the days after his death and funeral, I’d stop by the house.

Often just to walk in, drink coffee, hug people and leave.

Doing nothing, but somehow helping.

Caden Beggan taught me the power of Turning Up And Being There.

I pray I remember it always, though I doubt I’ll ever understand it.

Dec 30 2012

Christmas Day

Tag: UncategorizedKal @ 10:57 am

I'm going to reach out to those of you with, or who live with, small children. I'd love to sit alongside you and we could, together, bemoan the hellish early hour we were woken.

But I can't, because I was woken up at quarter to ten by Louis and Kate, the former signing frantically.


“Did Santa come?”


“Awesome. Did he bring presents?”


“I'm awake.”


“I need to put some clothes on, dude, I'm only wearing my boxers here.”


“No problem, you go through and I'll catch up.”


Kate just laughed, dumped him on my bed and averted her eyes.


Through in the living oom, sure ebough, Santa had been. The carrots were eaten (all ten of them, he was sure the reindeer would be hungry (and so they were, although they won't be eating coleslaw any time soon) and the whisky was drunk and the mince pies reduced to crumbs.

Presents were everywhere, huge stacks of them.

“Wow, Louis, who are these for?”


“Cool. Do you think Santa brought anything for anyone else?”


“I'm sure there'll be something here for me and Mum and Dad.”

NO *cross face* ALL ME

I turns out the Christmas books only talk about Santa bringing gifts for kids. We had to explain that other people would be getting presents too, in the interests of injecting a little festive cheer into the kid. Also, I was screwed if I was surrendering my haul of loot just because Kate and Sean had made poor pre-christmas story choices.

Partway through the gift opening, Fran and Laura popped by for some pre-lunch champagne and to deliver the best socks I've ever worn. You suspect you're getting old when you get socks for Christmas, but you know you've got there when you're thrilled by them.

My presents were generally awesome, a few nice wee hampers, a suspend-it-from-the-roof chair, various CDs and books and a copy of Gloom, the Victorian tragedy card game (fun for all the consumption riddled family).

Then there was the small matter of Christmas dinner. The whole flat was due to be out of town for a couple of days following the 25th, so we'd shopped with a view to avoiding leftovers. Louis and I had spent a very festive morning in Tesco picking up last minute odds and sods, singing along and shaking tubs of peppercorns like maracas.



The day before we'd all tried to settle on what we were eating on the big day, turkey or duck? Just a chicken? A nice cut of beef? We all knew that it had to be straightforward and create no carcass.


So when I spotted a stuffed butterfly of turkey I nabbed it and threw it in the trolley (possibly saying “Fuck it, that'll do us”) not noticing its claim to feed 10 people. THis turned out to be bullshit, incidentally, unless the people it was feeding were leprechauns. It amply fed the three of us and produced a couple of extra servings.

Or maybe we're just fat.


Aside from this, I decided that I would cook Christmas dinner, having never done it before and feeling rather adventurous following my pie and ham extravaganzas earlier on in the week. To plan it, I made this little beauty.




The thing the picture doesn't really show is that it's written out on a 3 foot tall whiteboard. Its not that I'm anal about these things, you understand, its just that I wanted it all to work.

Also I quite like schedules where you get to shout “1500! Baste!” in the sort of voice that Mortal Kombat used to say “Fight”.

So dinner was lovely, and then very fat and a little tipsy I fell asleep on the sofa in front of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and only woke up when I farted enormously (sprouts, sue me).

The entire day was thoroughly grand and I spent some time trying to work out what had made it so comfortable.

And here it is.

It's my first Christmas since leaving home where I've been:

Not working.

Not at my parents.

Not at somebody ELSE'S house (thanks enormously to the various people who've had me over for Christmas over the years, I love you all xxx).

In my own home.

With other people, including a little person.

Adult enough to know that Christmas will probably be fine and to play a part in making that happen.


In short, it was the Christmas of a settled person.

And that's worth a lot.


Dec 29 2012

Christmas Eve

Tag: UncategorizedKal @ 1:49 pm

On Christmas Eve I made a pie. A big meat pie, full of pistachios and cranberry sauce.

I've never made a pie before, it was a bit of an adventure and took my pretty much all sodding day, despite the fact that I'd cunningly made most of the various bits the day before. All I had to do was assemble it.


But first I baked a little tiny one, just to test that it would all work out fine.

Ho boy, that worked, that worked so well.

Crispy pastry. Moist, seasoned pork. Tart fresh cranberries.

I am the pie-king.

Now for the big one.

Please excuse the white line on the photo. It's a headphone cable, not the ghost of Earthworm Jim haunting my pie.

And into the oven it went.

I baked it for as long as the recipe said. And then I stuck a meat thermometer into it.

And the thermometer said “Hmmm….perhaps a little cool?”

I had visions of everyone attending the party I was cooking for going home with a head start on their “Lost twelve pounds by spring” New Years resolutions.

So I gave it another twenty minutes.

The pastry at this point was saying quite clearly that it was done.

But the filling? Not so much.


Still, I hauled it out of the oven, separated the pie tin and watched in dismay as a gaping chunk of pastry wall collapsed.


“It'll taste fine…” I thought to myself. Packed it up and stuck it in the fridge.


Then off to see Sooty and Amos and get a little bit (massively) drunk, before staggering home to build this in preparation for Christmas morning.


I'd uploaded a picture to Facebook when I originally bought it and received a stream of messages saying “That thing takes forever to build…”

And realised that Christmas morning, with an impatient nearly-five-year-old was not the greatest environment to try and build an ocean-going vessel.

So Christmas eve, with a bellyful of wine, was probably only marginally easier.

And while it was fun to build, I struggled a little with the rigging. Which makes me wonder just how health and safety conscious those pirates are, swigging at grog and rum while climbing up and down masts.

Someone should probably notify RIDDOR.




Dec 28 2012

For Amos Moses, who told me he’d read “Anything, even if you wrote about your breakfast”.

Tag: UncategorizedKal @ 1:10 pm

The house to myself, the flatmates away. A party last night (pictures to follow, I promise…) and a long drive home, recognising that I have to be at work tonight and sleeping in my own bed, rather than on someone else's couch would be a grown up way of approaching things.


Up, a quick shout through “Anyone else in the house?”, just in case. You never can tell in this flat, a brace of grandparents have keys, not to mention the cleaner. On hearing silence, I take full advantage to stroll through in my pants and set the coffee brewing. On the way I have a thought and the thought is “Ooh…pancakes.”

God bless Google for recipes, everything is in the cupboards. It's American fluffy pancakes and bacon for this boy this morning.


Shower, shave, kitchen. Sieving, mixing, bacon onto grill.


Smoke alarm.

The smoke alarm in our kitchen is a helpful friend, it sort of predicts when things might catch fire, rather than reporting when they have.

“Beepbeepbeep you've put some toast on. It's cooked perfectly…if you left it under there for another five minutes, like a crazy person, then it might burn the house down, just thought you should know…beepbeepbeep.”


Thankfully it has a little green button you can press to silence it.

So…butter on to melt to cook my pancakes.


Yes, thankyou…

Pancakes in to cook.

While I'm waiting, lets empty the dishwasher and stay ahead of the game.

Glasses, mugs, plates, cutlery, a little pile of Louis' plastic bowls that never *quite* dry. They go into the cupboard above the sink and

“Jesus suffering fuck!”

A deluge of sippy cups, Tupperware and little bitty cutlery pours out of the cupboard at head height. I think they've been leaning against the door, just waiting for me to open it up and attack me.

Forks are bouncing everywhere, a pyrex jug bounces off my foot, plastic bowls vanish into the bowels of the dishwasher.

“Beepbeepbeep…your bacon is less raw than it was.”

Green button.



This is the other entertaining thing about our smoke alarm. It requires more presses of the green button the more frequently it goes off. It's as though its saying “No, really…SOMETHING must be on fire…really….”

Flip the pancakes.

Flip the bacon.



Finish emptying the dishwasher.




Grab the tea towel, helicopter it madly around your head.


I don't know how long it'll beep before it triggers the whole building's alarm….


Shit…my pancake's on fire.

Well played, old friend.