h-notes ∈ August 2021

I visited the hospital so many times this month.


  1. We received a call on a Friday afternoon that R had something stuck in her ear, and we should go collect her from nursery. She wasn’t in pain, but there was something in there, so I called 111 and they said to take her to A&E. We did that and while T went in with R (one parent at a time ‘cos of a COVID outbreak at the hospital) I hung around in the cold and waited. There’s not much to see or do around the North Middlesex Hospital, but I did wander far enough to see a kebab shop made out of a double decker bus. Eventually T & R came out, but the offending item was still in her ear. She’d been too distressed by the process for them to remove it. It was late, and she wasn’t in pain, so we chalked it up to tiredness and made our way home. The A&E staff suggested a trip to A&E in a different hospital which had specialist ENT dept the following day.

  2. The next day, we took a taxi up to Barnet Hospital where again it was a one parent at a time situation, but R surprised us by asking for me to come in with her. After a short wait we got into children’s A&E where we were seen promptly. R was a bit twitchy about letting them see in her ear, but they were able to spot the item and rang for a specialist. We waited some more until they gave us a letter with an appointment for the coming Tuesday as apparently the ENT specialists couldn’t get into the room where the microscope was? This sounded like a weird excuse, but, again, R wasn’t in pain or whatever so off we went.

  3. On Tuesday I booked a Taxi to take us to the hospital which turned up 15 minutes early so I was still on the way to a cash point and hadn’t picked up R from Nursery yet. A minor problem in the grand scheme of things, but it didn’t augur well for the day ahead. About 5 minutes from the hospital, R vomited all over the Taxi. The driver was luckily very understanding, and gave us wet wipes and tissue to clean up, but, in the rush to get to the waiting Taxi, I hadn’t packed properly, and had no change of clothes for R. We did our best with a serious wetwipe session on her trousers in the hospital car park and swapping her dress for just a cardigan which had remarkably escaped unscathed. She still smelled a bit which I felt the need to explain profusely to everyone we spoke to.

    In the hospital things didn’t get much better. We were seen quickly enough, but R absolutely would not let them look in her ear this time. The doctor was great, and did their best - gave her stickers, told her jokes, tried to distract her with music and games on my phone, we even let her look in my ear to see that it didn’t hurt - but to no avail. As soon as the doctor tried to approach with the little ear torch R was having none of it. They told us we’d have to come back and have her put to sleep to get the item removed. Then a nurse and I had to hold her down and administer a COVID test, while she screamed, which was awful.

  4. We rang early the next day and the hospital confirmed they had a bed available. Having learnt my lesson I made sure to pack sensibly: plenty of activities and spare clothes. We also took public transport even though it took twice as long. R couldn’t eat or drink anything before the procedure meaning we had to skip breakfast. To ease the effort for her I said “I won’t eat until you eat”. As it turned out we got to the hospital at 09:30 and she didn’t go into theatre until about 14:50. R was understandably starving when she came out of theatre and as soon as the ward staff said it was okay she devoured all the snacks we had. We couldn’t leave for ages as they wanted to make sure she had no ill-effects from the anaesthetic so R also scoffed a plate of hospital dinner too. I got her jelly and a few spare chips.

    Again, the NHS staff were great, but R was not happy about any medical interventions. Taking her pulse she just about tolerated. Taking her temperature was an ordeal. Taking her blood pressure was okay the first time because she didn’t really know what it was going to do, but the 2nd time she had to see me and her teddy do it, the third time she refused unless it was on her leg, which, luckily, is a valid way of taking a reading. Putting the cream on to numb the areas they would put a cannula in later for injecting anaesthetic went ok, but it’s lucky they put on four lots as she complained loudly about two of them very quickly, and they had to be removed. This was all just a rehearsal.

    We were called to get ready for theatre around 14:30, and we got the first brief moment of sunshine the entire day. They only had tiny baby hospital gowns, or full-size adult ones. She looked hilarious in her outsized gown, and we shared a laugh about it between ourselves and with the ward staff.

    Then we went down into theatre and were given the option of sleeping gas, or injection for anaesthetic. R flat out refused the injection so they had to use the gas. They played a game with it where they asked her to blow really hard into it to inflate a balloon on the opposite end of the pipe. This worked really well to distract her until she realised what was happening and started to scream and writhe and scream and kick and I had to hold her down as she sobbed and cried “no daddy” and I could barely keep it together and suddenly she was unconscious and I was in the corridor and then I was back in the ward having a little cry. Barely any time passed before I was called back down to the recovery ward outside the theatre. I didn’t quite know where I was going so I could hear her crying for me from the corridor as a nurse pointed me in the right direction. I bundled her up in a hug in her ridiculous gown and felt like a complete failure for not being there as she woke up. I teared up again when I spotted that the theatre staff had put a plaster on R’s teddy’s ear so he’d be the same as her.

    Ten minutes later we’re back in the ward where she charmed the ward staff into finding her an extra sandwich even though lunch was long past and started asking questions about the cannula in her hand. It’s like nothing had happened. We get to leave eventually at around 18:30 and she’s super excited to be out late and getting the bus and tube home. I’m exhausted and emotionally spent.

I knew I’d changed when we had R, but nothing brought it home as much as this experience. More than I thought possible, my heart no longer belongs to me; it’s been removed and given arms and legs and a face and a smile and messy hair. I’ll do anything for my little friend, and I’ll shatter if she’s harmed.


I got to visit the hospital again later in the month for an exciting medical procedure of my own. In late May I went to donate blood plasma at a fancy new centre in Tottenham, but was turned away due to low iron levels in my blood. Low enough that they said I should check-in with my GP rather than just eating a bit more spinach and coming back in a month or so. I checked in and they put me on iron tablets (black poo!) and then uhmmed and ahhed about what else to do. Eventually, after a few blood tests, and urine tests, and stool tests which all came back clear, they booked me in for some endoscopy.

I don’t recommend it. The prep is awful. You spend a few days eating only beige food, and then you chug water and laxatives the day before the procedure. The result of which is that you violently flush your bowel several times, often with little warning or much time between events.

The next day you go into hospital and they put a camera up your bum to look around, then a different camera down your throat to look around. The bum one is particularly disconcerting as you can feel the camera moving around in your bowl as it snakes around your plumbing. If it wasn’t for the mild sedation I reckon I’d have been freaking out like John Hurt in Alien. As it was, I was sedated, and instead watched the video screen of the camera’s viewpoint and listened to the Doctor giving the student practitioner in the room a guided tour of my bowels. A slightly surreal experience, made even more so when I was complimented on how clean my bowels were - “truly excellent bowel prep” they said1. Which was nice.

The cup of tea and bourbon biscuit I was given after coming out were amazing. Then a friend drove me home and I watched the original cut of the Justice League movie, which even under mild sedation, I didn’t really enjoy. I can’t see how a 4 hour version with less jokes would be a thing I’d want.

A week or so later they referred me back to my GP because they’d found nothing. They want to do a different test in a few months, but at least I’m off the bowel cancer pathway, so that’s a relief.

Writing by day, writing by night

A lot of my day at work is currently spent writing documents. To explain existing processes and policies, or to come up with new ones, or write up notes on 1-to-1s, or, on the odd occasion I still ship some code, explaining over several paragraphs the detail behind the 4 character change I’m making.

This month we also asked for more people to help out with organising LRUG and so as part of that a lot of my time after work was spent writing documents that explain existing process and policies to help onboard new organisers.

I used to spend a lot of time coding by day at work and then coding by night too on non-work projects. I don’t do that much anymore because I don’t really want my day and evening to feel like the same kind of effort. Admittedly, in theory, given I don’t code much at work these days I wouldn’t be against doing some coding in the evening, but I don’t want to write onboarding docs at work and at home, so I can’t say I enjoyed this return to day & night symmetry2.

Default modes

As happens a lot in my 1-to-1s with my reports, I passed on some advice around how I might approach a similar problem to the one my report was facing. In this case my advice involved avoiding conflict by taking on some responsibility for the issue and giving the other party a way to back down without losing face. Something like “oh, hey I don’t think this went well, and I’m sure it was me ‘cos I’m trying to work on my communication skills, so what could I have done to make this work better for you?”.

My report dutifully listened to my advice and then said “I don’t want to do that because that means me giving up status”. It was obvious as soon as they said it, but I just hadn’t thought about that aspect at all. I’m in the lucky position of having status to spare so I can give it away. I want to give mine up to encourage people to disagree with me, and not just do something because I suggested it. I can be vulnerable at work because it’s important, I think, for people to see that senior people aren’t magic. That approach doesn’t work for people early in their careers, or new to the company, or women, or non-white, or any blessed with any other circumstance that means they’re not playing on easy mode like I am.

So, yes, I finally realised that not everyone is me.

More seriously though, it got me thinking about my default mode being to think “how would I solve this problem” and then share that. I need to get better at other ways of helping my reports. Coaxing their own ideas out of them, recognising their strengths and reminding them to play into them, finding opportunities to let them shine that they wouldn’t look for themselves.

Media Blitz

Somehow I managed to find time this month to watch a bunch of TV series.

Star Trek: Discovery: Series 3

It’s a weird show. It’s not great, it’s not terrible. It is deeply in love with its main character to the extent that she can do no wrong even when it makes no sense. It’s a Star Trek show that seems to not really want to be a Star Trek show. It started as a prequel and revelled in fan-service, but had such confusing repercussions in terms of the timeline of the existing shows that it just wanged itself 1000 years into the future with a “everyone who stayed behind is sworn to secrecy about this ship” handwave to avoid dealing with it. The ship lands in a future that’s so different to existing Trek timelines that it may as well just not be Star Trek. Which, I guess, is what they wanted all along, but you do wonder why we didn’t just have a new show without all the Star Trek trappings if you’re going to jettison them entirely. Obviously it’s because no-one would fund it because you can’t just make new things now, they have to be part of a franchise.

Anyway, this series is more of the same. It was sort of interesting to be in this future and work out how things would be different and how our characters would react. Unfortunately it just throws most of that away without exploring it so we can see Michael Burnham and co3 improbably save the universe again.

Still, I’ll probably watch series 4 if it happens. I won’t be massively happy about it, but I will do it.


I’d seen people talking about this on twitter and then listened to the Rose Matafeo interview on the Adam Buxton Podcast so thought I’d give this a go. It’s another young people in London sitcom like Fleabag, I guess. Unlike Fleabag it’s not particularly ambitious4. I didn’t laugh out loud a whole lot, but I enjoyed spending time with the characters. So much so that I chewed through it in a few nights. It’s warm. Comforting. The people in it aren’t absolute shits doing horrible things to each other, and that goes a long way.

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson: Series 2

I have vague recollection of really enjoying series 1 of this show, but I can’t say the same for series 2. I don’t think it’s a hugely different show, so I’m wary now of recommending series 1. It’s a sketch show where every sketch is a variation of:

slightly stupid man is crass and/or angry about something, and then the idea runs for slightly longer than is comfortable.

Maybe series 1 is just the best possible collection of that theme, and series 2 is a less well-refined collection so it doesn’t work as well. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for “angry people” shows, but I don’t think I want to rewatch series 1 to find out.


Apple finally relented and started charging me for Apple TV+ after nearly a year and a half. This was enough to send me over the edge of working out if Apple One would be a good deal. Turns out, for slightly less money I could get 50Gb less storage, but access to Apple Arcade as well as all the services I was already paying for. So I signed up.

So far I’ve played:

  1. Builders Journey - a lego rendered puzzle game. It’s beautiful, but the control scheme on a phone is frustrating, and honestly, it’s a bit boring.
  2. Mini Motorways - a sequel to Mini Metro. A game I’m not very good at, but I enjoy playing none-the-less. Short bursts of idle puzzling, which, TBH, is what I’m looking for.
  3. A Monster’s Expedition (through puzzling exhibitions) - a top down, log-pushing, puzzle game. It’s charming, and eases you into it’s mechanics. It’s not quite an open world, but if you get stuck there’s probably another island to explore. I got to the end fairly quickly, but there’s a lot of puzzle islands still to do. I’ll be coming back to this one for a while I reckon.

Frustratingly, at least two of the other games I want to play from browsing the store (Alba, and Assemble with Care) are from ustwo games and I just don’t know if I’m ready to forgive the succailure talk I sat through at Playful 2011.


4 times - but, given the sagas outlined above, I’m fairly happy with these. I didn’t run at all for most of the month, but in the last couple of weeks I managed to fit in lunchtime runs. This is exciting as it means that I might finally have broken the back of this “doing exercise while working from home” lark. We’ll see what happens in September.


Managed 5 which is pretty exciting, not least because 2 were physical books and I’ve managed to start eating my way through the McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern backlog I built up over the past year or so. Let’s see if I can keep chipping away at my bedside pile in September.