Something strange was afoot. Soon you could feel it in the streets, and in the hospital coridors, but it was apparent, at first, in the questions I was asking my patients. There was a new question now, an outlying question; one of those questions that muscle into medical histories from time to time, a question of the moment, pressing up against the same old questions doctors have been asking their patients for centuries. Do you have a fever? Are you coughing? And then, adjusting my mask, my tone acutely serious, I’d hone in: And have you travelled to Wuhan?


On 8 January this year, a Wednesday, my A&E department in central London was its typical, swirling self. The waiting room brimming, the paramedics backed up. On a quieter day, I might have noticed an article in the British Medical Journal about a cluster of patients with a new pneumonia in Wuhan. Ten weeks later, when the Army unloaded a consignment of surgical masks to the forecourt of our hospital, even A&E doctors like me, for whom workaday life is used to calamity, felt blindsided by the nature of things.

A year before that BMJ piece, almost to the day…

How to lose friends, write books and influence people

  1. Put on your ‘writing jumper’. It’s oversized, woolly and you found it behind the dressing gowns at Scope. Forget that it still smells of a gouty pensioner. Breathe. Feel powerful. You are ready to begin.
  2. Coffee
  3. Have a shot of hot water if you drool any of the grounds.
  4. Limber up: Look about your room and create luminous, poetic similes. The widow shines like a pair of shiny glasses in the glassy sun. The can of coke is as crepuscular as an isotope of beryllium. The sunrise is as bloody as a road traffic victim. …

(originally published on CNN)

On some forgotten day in 2004, Cerro Negro, a soot-colored volcano in Nicaragua, was host to an unusual visitor.

On the steep flank of the mountain, a man was bent low to the basalt scree, laboring upward. On his back teetered a small refrigerator, recently removed from a hotel minibar.

Daryn Webb had a plan, and for someone intent on “riding” a fridge down the side of an active volcano, a great deal of optimism might be assumed too.

What happened when Webb reached a suitably daring altitude, jumped aboard his fridge and set to his…

Are you into speed dating? No?

I imagine that’s for one of three reasons. One: you’re smugly paired up, hooray for you. Two: it’s not 2003. Three: you envisage two hours of bumbling small talk and then leaving so dismayed by the whole experience that you’ll immediately slash your standards and date people three decades older than you, with a wardrobe gathered from charity bins and Marmite stains on both their t-shirts.

Obviously, speed dating will involve meeting someone called Zenith / Zenitha. Their special interest, if they were on mastermind, would be parasites. They’ll make this clear. They will…

Two weeks ago Sarah Outen returned from nearly half a decade of cycling and rowing around the world, half a decade of vigorously roughing it in a manner that puts my similarly spanned escapade to shame. Roughing it, properly: heart-plunging, soul-shivering stuff on the open ocean, replete with crashing personal crises, soaking self-doubt and premonitions of death. It’s safe to say that facing down Pacific swells that would breach tall buildings is distantly orbiting the comfort zone of most of us.

And you’d think that when Sarah crafted a piece for the Guardian on her return, an optimistic love letter…

My mum loves Levison Wood.

In case you’ve been on hiatus from our star system, Levison is an adventurer. Channel 4 follow him about as he does venturesome things.

‘He’s such an adventurous guy’ my mum says.

‘Mum’ I begin, steadily. ‘I’ve been cycling around the world for six years.’

‘I know, I know darling’ she says, before lapsing into a reverie.

‘But he’s so handsome, isn’t he?’

She follows him on Twitter. It makes me wonder when she’s going to follow me. ‘Oh, are you on Twitter? I didn’t know’ she says when I remind her. …

Pondering the catalogue of cruel, ham-fisted assaults dealt my profession by the government is, I imagine, something close to what having a catheter inserted into your penis feels like, if the catheter tube in question has the proportions and ornament of a Roman column.

So the strikes are back on, and it’s impossible to imagine that the concerns of junior doctors like myself will drift away like the government hopes for, and not hang smotheringly over the NHS like a Victorian smog.

Let us relive the outrages.

First, of course, came the contract itself in which our ‘working week’ got…

  • To reduce the death rate on weekends Jeremy Hunt has redefined a week as a period of 91 days. In each week there will be ninety Mondays and one Sunday. With only four Sundays each year, Mr Hunt has dramatically reduced the weekend death rate per annum, and has also ensured doctors work significantly less anti-social hours. This is good news for the profession and the public.
  • To adjust for any perceived increase in antisocial hours, all junior doctors will be paid double time on the 29th of February. …

Stephen Fabes

Doctor (emergency medicine), runner, wanderer and storyteller. Author of ‘Signs of Life’ (Profile), Aug 2020.

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