It's September, and children are going back to school all over Nappy Valley. Thankfully we are spared that for another year, but we do have another novelty to grapple with: the Doctor has started a new job. And not just any new job; he has finally become a Consultant. After years of training, countless gruelling exams, and eleven years after graduating from medical school, he has reached the point where he is, technically, no longer a ‘junior doctor’.
Off he went on Monday morning, all smart in his suit and tie and new, shiny shoes, like a little boy to a new school. He didn't take his usual sandwiches, unsure whether he would have to be sociable and have lunch with his new colleagues. At home with the Littleboys, I had my own visions of what his first day might be like. Would he be striding about the hospital, asking his minions to reel off hundreds of potential diagnoses which he’d scribble down on a whiteboard, only to then cross out and come up with the real answer himself? Would he be followed around by a scurrying bunch of keen young medical students all too ready to form a crush on him? (As you can see, my knowledge of my husband's job stems, not from reality, but from US medical dramas…)
“It might be very busy," he had warned me in the morning. "I'm not sure what time I'll be back." But, at 5.30 sharp, the door opened - Daddy was home. My own Dad, who happened to be there, wondered whether this was because, as a consultant, The Doctor could just ‘sweep in and out, like James Robertson Justice in the Doctor in the House films’. But no. The Doctor was in fact rather monosyllabic and all I could get out of him was ‘not much happened’, before the chaos of the Littleboys’ bath and bedtime began.
Later, our conversation at supper went thus:
“So, did you see lots of patients?
“Well, no. I spent the whole day trying to get a security pass so that I could actually get into my department and do simple things like access the loos.”
“Oh.....So why was that?”
“Well, security told me I needed an official 8 digit number for an identity card before I could get in. So I went up to Medical Staffing and asked for one, but they said they were too busy and I should come back tomorrow.”
“And were they busy?”
“They appeared to be handing round pieces of chocolate cake…”
[At this point we could not help but dissolve into giggles...]
“So what did you do?”
“I had to go and see someone else and get them to email Security, then get the email printed off so I could show Security it had been sent. And it then took them another hour to get my pass done.”
“Oh. Well never mind (trying to sound cheerful). At least you do have your own office now, don’t you?”
“What’s that like?”
“What, more horrible than that horrible lab you used to work in?”
“Yes. Well, they did show me a really nice office at first, but apparently it belongs to another consultant who’s on long term sick leave but might return at any moment - no-one seems to know what's happened to him - so they kicked me out into another one, which hasn’t got a computer except in the corridor."
"But I do have a secretary."
“Oh really, that’s exciting.”
“Yes, but she doesn’t do any dictation because that all has to be outsourced to another company which is apparently cheaper.”
“Really? So what does she have to do then?”
“Not sure.….Play Solitaire?”
“Oh…..so what did you have for lunch then?"
"A Diet Coke and a packet of crisps, by myself..[pause] I'll be taking sandwiches tomorrow."
"Another glass of wine then?”
He may be a highly trained NHS consultant, but I felt like putting a little card in his school satchel to cheer him up. Some things never change.