Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 2

We are three days deep into the working week and I am happy to report that morale in this Vienna office remains good. There has been no passive-aggression between myself and my new co-worker, nor for that matter any non-passive aggression (my wife has on more than one occasion when discussing someone who has rubbed her the wrong way stated that she would like to “stab them with a fork”, so this is no idle concern. Why this particular piece of cutlery, I don’t know. I’m too afraid to ask). Perhaps the secret to our co-habitational bliss is the deep river of communication and understanding that my wife and I share. Perhaps it is my retreating to the balcony when eating my lunch today to avoid irritating her with the sounds of my mechanical digestion. We may never know.

I do believe that during this period of government-enforced agoraphobia, one of the devices that should be used to avoid being stabbed by your spouse with a piece of cutlery is the enjoyment of extra-curricular activities. When your office, your living room, your dining area, and your kitchen are all the same 6 metre x 4 metre space, it’s important to introduce some variety to keep the magic alive.

As mentioned in yesterday’s chapter, Alex and I now begin each day with a yoga session. The assortment of aches and pains in my muscles and joints lets me know this is working well and, by the time we are freed to resume normal life, I am confident that I will have the flexibility of a prima ballerina. For now, I would be satisfied with being able to tap the ground with my fingertips during stretches where the instructor is effortlessly resting her entire palm on the mat, but we must walk before we can run.

Alex has taken on a collection of rather useful hobbies. One it that each evening she prepares our breakfast for the next morning, two bowls of overnight oats, which, as the name suggests, are oats that are prepared one night in advance. But these are not your grandma’s oats, no, hers are an assortment of flavours that ensure the day is started with a grinning face and a full belly (I don’t know your grandma, maybe these are her oats, who am I to comment of the quality of your grandmother’s breakfast preparation).

Alex starts with some dried oats and then adds puffed spelt, chia seeds, a handful of fresh and frozen fruit, natural vanilla yogurt, and a dash of milk. After being given the necessary twelve hours to reach its full potential, this combination equals a bowl that is not only tasty, but healthy and aiding in digestion. And, going by the sounds heard through the shared wall of our office and toilet, I’d say it’s working.

I have taken a different approach to my free-time activities and, much like children all over Austria penned indoors, I went straight for the pencils and paper. Drawing is a discipline that feels akin to meditation. Through focus, I am able to empty my head and let go of whatever unwanted thoughts are plaguing my brain. The repetition of the pencil strokes occupies the stimulant-driven portion of my consciousness while the rest is free to sit back and take a load off. 

(click to see a larger version)

 

This activity also provides my wife with, much like parents all over Austria penned indoors with their children when they dig into the art supplies, a moment of peace and quiet to read a book.

Books are vital when living in the time of COVID. Of course, I would argue that books are always vital, but they become doubly so when used as compensation for social interaction. And I don’t want to brag, but I’ve been using books to replace social interaction since I was a teenager. 

Mostly I do my reading while simultaneously drawing. No, sadly, I am not some ambidextrous prodigy, rather I use the medium of audiobooks to get the narrative into my head. I could go on at length about the merits of audiobooks, like a rabid missionary desperate to snag his next convert, but I will try and restrain myself and say only that the act of listening to an audiobook has the ability to transform any domestic task, be it the washing up, vacuuming the house, or going for a run, into an experience wherein your mind enjoys the exploration of characters and story while your hands slave away at the dirty work.

My brother and I love audiobooks to the extent that we have created a club around this topic, and have even gone one step further in that Damian also created an emblem for our club, as pictured below.

Audiobook Club 2

Granted, our club presently only has two members, but that doesn’t get in the way of our overwhelming pride in it.

So far, this combination of routine and hobbies has kept Alex and I on the right side of sane during the COVID purgatory, and has ensured that my baby-soft skin remains fork free.

 

Tomorrow: Communication.

Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 1

To say that life is a little left of normal at the moment is perhaps putting it too lightly. 

I am writing this from my apartment in Vienna that I share with my wife, an apartment that we haven’t left yet today despite having worked a full work day. This is already out of the ordinary, what with both of us having full-time jobs that come with desks and offices and normally a forty-minute commute to get to those desks and offices. 

The primary school directly opposite our apartment has been silent all day, which is all but unheard of during the school semester. Even outside of school hours, the walkway between our balcony and the classrooms is normally populated with pedestrians drifting back and forth in their daily duties. It is currently empty and has remained mostly so since the sun came up this morning.

All of these not normal things are technically good. They are signs that the people of Vienna have received the message and taken it to heart. We are all taking what measures we can to try and protect the vulnerable in our community and the healthcare system as a whole. We are all social distancing. We are all living in the time of COVID.

As a measure against these strange times, against the potential boredom of remaining mostly within the same four walls, against the threat of cabin fever, as a method to record this novel event, and to just give my wife a break from my ceaseless sparkling company, I have decided to jump-start my blog and write about what this period in human history felt like to live through.

So, let’s recap where we are. I’m an Australian living in Vienna with my Austrian wife. Presently, we have been mostly indoors looking only at each other for the past five days. Alex, said wife, has only rolled her eyes twice in that time and is still laughing at my jokes, so I’d say we’re staying strong in the face of contamination-avoidance measures.

Here are some things we’ve learned about each other so far into our not-quite-quarantine:

When breaking up the work day, we like to have lunch at different times. Alex is more of a twelve o’clock girl, whereas I like to split my day right down the middle and eat at one. This detail was particularly highlighted to me when I sat on the couch, happily munching away on a toasted sandwich with my wife attempting to work at our dining table less than a metre away, only to discover less than twenty seconds into my meal that Alex had vacated her workspace in what I later learned was an effort to flee from the “disgusting masticating sounds.”

Our dining table/work space is also situated very near to the wall that is shared by our toilet, so we have been deepening the intimacy of our relationship by becoming very familiar with each other’s bowel and bladder habits. I’m thankful to the COVID precautions for allowing me to get to know my wife on an even more visceral level.

We have been turning these restrictions to our advantage in more ways than discovering the mysteries of each other’s digestive system, however. During the forty minutes at either end of our day that is normally dedicated to our commute, Alex via her car and me via an underground train-carriage, we have been turning this time towards the pursuit of perfecting our bodies. We start the day with a yoga session in an attempt to undo the damage inflicted on our spines from working at a dining table that was not designed for eight hours of working at a laptop, and finish the day with a run or a walk in order to breath in some fresh air, enjoy some sunshine, and stave of the creeping insanity that comes from never leaving your house.

IMG_20200316_173436

During these walks/runs, the streets are noticeably more vacant that usual, but not deserted. People with the same goals as us emerge from their home offices, squinting against the natural light, and often moving in pairs. The main difference in these walks is the way that everyone is maintaining a bubble of air between themselves and everyone else. When two sets of couples approach one another on a footpath, one couple will drift to the opposite side of the road. Dog-walkers will leave the path and walk on the grass to make space for joggers. Everyone is moving in their own private invisible sphere. 

Thankfully, this is not done with menace or the glares of those eyeing off the potentially contaminated, but rather with polite nods and smiles of thanks that everyone is doing their part to distance themselves socially. Austrians are not overtly physically affectionate as a rule, so I feel this has not been too great a burden on them.

The eerie moments come when the closed-down stores are seen, empty and dark in the middle of the day. Or the abandoned playgrounds, sectioned off with plastic tape. 

IMG_20200317_172013

We have been told that maintaining a routine is important during times like this to help to normalise things a little. Alex and I have kept to rather similar sleeping hours and eating habits, but have decided to introduce a few new activities to again reap whatever benefits can be wrought when the majority of the world is told to stick to a rainy-day programme. These new activities keep our minds sharp and aid us in challenging ourselves. One such challenge given to me by my wife this evening was the exciting task of removing the accumulated hair from the shower drain. As I plucked the wet clumps from the metal opening, the snakes of hair resisting slightly before slithering out like putrefied souvenirs of all the showers we have ever taken, I was grateful to my wife for this mentally-stimulating gift. It’s all about making the best of it.

I will leave you all with that delicious image, but plan to return with more tales of Vienna in the time of COVID. Hopefully you’ll join me and, even in this period of social distancing, we can come together through this weird and surreal shared experience.

Tomorrow: Extra-curricular activities.

2018/19

2018 was one for the books.

This appropriate phrase was first uttered by my brother as he, his fiancée, myself and my then-fiancée, sat in an AirBnB in New Zealand, sharing a drink and fervently wishing the clingy and slightly creepy owner of the place wouldn’t come down to his lower storey where we were residing and interrupt us again. At the time the statement was more of a prediction as 2018 had yet to happen, but the plans were laid out before us and all signs indicated that it would indeed be a year for the books. My brother was not wrong.

Of course, not everything went to plan.

I referenced my partner as “then-fiancée” because in the past year she transition from my fiancee to my wife. That was part of the plan. At the time of writing this we’ve been married for four months, but do not live together. Not even in the same country, in fact. That is the part that did not go to plan.

But I should start from the start.

 

The first half of 2018 continued as my previous few years had. I toiled in London, working stupid hours as a Rapid Response nurse, while Alex continued to labour away in her office job in Vienna. Between these activities we also planned a wedding, and by we, I mean Alex. I contributed where I could and all decisions were reached as a team, but due to the language barrier, and distance barrier, the lioness’s share of the work fell on Alex’s shoulders. She somehow managed to balance this weight of work and produced spectacular results, both professionally and extracurricularly, and for this I will be forever grateful. Luckily for me, I am now legally bonded to her and so have a lifetime to repay her kindness.

This routine continued up until July when two best friends came knocking and the first of those well laid plans for a year worthy to be one for the books was enacted. My twin brother, Damian, and his fiancée, Holly, had taken three months of leave to spend a chunk of time with us, attend our wedding, and cross as much of Europe as they could in the process. They started with Austria, and I took two weeks off to revel in their company while simultaneously completing a two-week intensive German language course. Because what fun time isn’t improved by completing a two-week intensive German language course.

Having my people come to a place they had only previously visited via video chat was like putting the last jigsaw puzzle piece in the picture that was my new home. Despite my continued residence in London, Alex’s apartment was my true home on this side of the planet, and having Damian and Holly physically present gave it a solidity, turning my European fantasy into reality.

They saw the sights and the city, and thankfully for me fell in love with it all as much as I had. But the best times we spent together were dinners around the dining table, movie nights, picnics by the river and drinks on the balcony. Domestic things not unique to Vienna, and therefore all the more cherishable because it wasn’t the location that made it special but the company.

P1040424

 

Damian and Holly ventured on into forests and mountains, and for a brief period life resumed its normal rhythms. Alex and I added the extra task of collecting various documents for my residency in Austria amongst work and wedding planning, each of us reaching out to assorted governmental bodies for an equally assorted list of paperwork. Each of us had to prove identities, incomes, and criminal histories, the latter of which we thankfully had none. We hoarded these documents like a squirrel hoards nuts, ready for the day we acquired the final piece of paperwork, the marriage certificate, and could put them all into action.

Then family descended upon Vienna. If Damian and Holly gave my new home solidity, then having my brother and his family, my parents and my cousin and his partner, and Damian and Holly back again, all together in the same four walls made it as firm as a foundation. Which only made sense, as the foundation of my life is exactly what all these people are.

Life became wedding centric and after bbqs and crafternoons, buck’s nights and venue decorating, the day came and Alex and I were saturated in love for each other and from our community of family and friends. The rain pushed away, sunlight poured down on us, and we had a ridiculously picture perfect wedding day, the kind you see in wedding magazines, roll your eyes at and mutter “as if.” Yeah, we were those people.

20180831_Alexandra&Jonathan_coupleshoot(80von141)


After soaking up as much family time as possible, Alex and I ran away to Greece to get to know one another as husband and wife, while my family ventured off into unknown parts of Austria and then on into wider Europe. The year once again was living up to its reputation.

To add to the book-worthy status, 2018 also saw my beautiful sister, Angela, have her first child, providing me with an adorable new nephew by the name of Eli. For the first time in years, all of my immediate family was off from work, either through annual leave or maternity leave, and all of us were adventuring. Our family thread of messages became clogged with photos of some of the most stunning and dramatic parts of central and eastern Europe. I watched my sister be a mother through videos provided by her fiance, Ben, and met my cherub of a nephew this way. I saw my other nephew and niece, Ella and Harry, casually take to planes, exotic landscapes, and new languages and cultures as if it was just another Wednesday, getting on with it and smiling all the way with the adaptability of kids. My ongoing video messages with my older brother, Matt, became a lot more interesting as the backgrounds behind our heads transition from the same tired bedroom settings to Santorini beaches and old beautiful cities.

 

Eventually this exotic period had to end, and Alex and I headed back to reality, jetting from the Greek Islands to Vienna for too few days before I had to return to London. Despite our new status as man and wife, that alone didn’t give us any rights to reside together, and so I had to say goodbye to my bride. After three years of a long-distance relationship we are sadly well-practiced at these goodbyes, but doing it as a newly married couple came like a punch to the gut, and the wedding high evaporated as I sat on a plane and took off from the place I really wanted to be.

I submitted my application for residency at the Austrian embassy in London the next day, slipping in amongst the mountain of other documents the all important marriage certificate stating I belonged to Alex and she to me, and therefore it would be nice if we could be together for our mutual ownership. I was told it would be approximately three months until I got any sort of response, and so I returned home and picked up my routine of work, trying hard to pretend every day wasn’t a small torture of missing my wife and waiting for an email that would say I was allowed to be with her.

After about a month this wait was briefly paused when a letter arrived in Alex’s mailbox, but it was only to ask for even more documentation. Alex had queried with three different officials if the police check I provided needed be from the UK where I’d resided for the past three years, or from Australia, where I had resided for the previous twenty-eight years. All three officials scoffed and said they didn’t care where I had lived, only where I did live, and that a UK police check was all that was necessary, please and thank you.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, that letter in Alex’s mailbox stated in no uncertain terms that we had failed to provide an Australian police check, and that we needed to do so in a timeframe of eight days. Apparently they hadn’t figured that postage time alone to get the document from Australia to Austria would exceed our allotted time, not to mention the collection of yet more documents and processing time required for the Australian government to run my background check and determine I was not a criminal. Alex contacted the residency office and explained the situation, and they very reluctantly granted us a bit more time, huffing all the while as if the delay was our fault and we were lucky to be getting the extension. How generous of them.

We resubmitted and the wait began again.

Thankfully, they arduous process was interrupted by the wedding of my best friends, the aforementioned Damian and Holly. The distraction was welcomed, and I’m sure they timed their wedding purely to give us something else to think about. They’re good like that.

Alex and I boarded a plane and flew away from our distance and our problems for a time, swapping winter for summer, her home country for mine, and landed in Australia and sunshine, and the always warm company of my family.

The next three weeks saw us visiting family and friends with the speed and frenzy of speed-daters, and amongst it all we geared up for the second wedding of the season. We also had a small sewage problem that constituted of the contents of the toilet bubbling up on the soon-to-be newlywed’s front lawn, that was ultimately remedied by diggers and the loss of the toilet the day before the wedding.

Despite this small hiccup, Damian and Holly’s wedding was a thing of beauty. Once again, the clouds rolled away, literally last-minute as the groom and I eyed the dark dripping sky on our way to the park where the wedding was to be held, a pocket of sunlight opening up and drenching the clearing with sunlight so warm a groomsman had to sit down mid-ceremony to avoid fainting. The pre-ceremony whiskey, beer, and lack of water may have also contributed to his condition.

Damian and Holly’s story was said for the benefit of the crowd and they exchanged vows so honest, so loving, so real, so silly, so thoughtful and so aptly them that there was not a dry eye in the garden, the eyes of yours truly amongst them.

The party kicked off and I danced with my family, and celebrated my two best friends legally bonding themselves to one another, and drank and laughed and sang too loud and all the good things you can do when life for the moment is just about love and nothing else. In short, the wedding was kick-ass and book-worthy.

48399020_10155776777816078_6122914100256178176_n

The three weeks passed too quickly and Alex and I found ourselves morosely packing suitcases for the return home, buzzed with the high of the wedding, but sad to be leaving when we’d just gotten into the holiday rhythms. The parting was as hard as ever, and I shed tears with my family, both happy and sad for it to hurt because as least it meant I was so lucky as to have a community who loved me and whom I loved that the distance mattered so greatly.

But I am doubly lucky, and upon touchdown we were greeted but the second community in our lives and soon celebrated Christmas with the Vienna side of our widespread family.

Throughout it all, despite my best efforts, my heart still raced every time my phone pinged announcing I had a new email. Logically I had reasoned that I wouldn’t get a response about my Austrian residency until the new year, despite the fact that the eighteenth of December marked the three-month anniversary of when the application was submitted. But every email was nothing of note, and at the time of writing this no decision has yet to be reached.

 

Which brings us back to where I started. As demonstrated, my brother did indeed prophesise correctly and 2018 was undisputedly one for the books.

But, sadly, the continued dual lodging of Alex and myself also demonstrates that not everything went to plan.

I fly back to London tomorrow, on the second of January, 2019, once again saying goodbye to my wife for a period of time. I don’t know what 2019 will hold, when residency will come and Alex and I can finally start building our life together under the same roof. I’m not setting dates in mind or making plans because it hurts too much when things don’t go according to those plans. But I know however the dust settles, 2019 will contain more family, and laughter, and problems, and solutions, and Alex, and that with our widespread community we’ll do everything we can to make 2019 one for the books.

That’s all any of us can ever do with a year.

2017/18

2017 was an exhausting year.

It was a year that found me working more hours per week than I ever thought I would. Twelve-hour days became the norm, bookended with hour long bus rides through the suburbs of London, crawling my way north over the Thames and back again, german audio courses filling my ears for the morning journey, and Alex’s voice filling them for the return trip home.

IMG_20170114_071158

I went in and out of a thousand patient’s homes, into apartments of squalor and into estates so grand they could have housed five families instead of the single rich elderly resident that they did. I took endless blood pressures, felt an infinity of pulses, and inserted blessedly few suppositories. Maybe around four. Not too bad, really.

It was a year that found me spending more time away from my loved ones than in any other period to date. I was away from Australia for thirteen months, and saw my partner for only three and a half days of every fortnight. I was either working or in my tiny bedroom in Tooting, where my primary activities were eating, skyping and sleeping.

It was a year where the news reports seemed determined to bend us and bow us, to convince us the world was a doomed place being run by morons and bigots. The endless stream of click-bait fed us a diet of hopelessness and negativity, and sapped already depleting reservoirs.

It was a taxing year, certainly, but don’t believe it all, because 2017 was also an exhilarating year.

It was a year that saw my brother, Damian, become engaged to his best friend, Holly. It was a year where, in an uncharacteristic display of twinliness, I also became engaged to my best friend.

My voice quavered and my hands shook, and I asked my lady a question and she gave me a lifetime of happiness by answering in the affirmative. This happiness commenced almost immediately when, at four o’clock in the morning, with both of us too juiced up with adrenaline to sleep, we sat in bed, watched TV, and ate potato chips. Perfect wife material, my friends.

It was a year that contained a visit from my parents who crossed oceans and continents to meet me, my new fiancée, and my new fiancée’s parents, in Greece. The six of us soaked in the sun and the sea of the Mediterranean, ate our body’s weight in delicious food, and shared in the excitement of the coming nuptials.

IMG_20170902_192329

We explored the city of Vienna, my second home, and I journeyed with my parents across the United Kingdom. My previously isolated existence was suddenly occupied, and places and streets and homes that had been segregated from my former life became infused with the flavour of family. Those lonely locations in London now carried memories of Mum and Dad, causing the loneliness to have a harder time taking hold.

The year contained adventuring as the three of us road-tripped, dipping into the wildness of the Scottish highlands and tracking the coastline of Northern Ireland. We explored the isle of Skye, trekking on foot into the beauty and fierceness of the land, standing at the crest of the Old Man of Storr and whooping into the wind that tried to uproot us from the rocky soil.

 

It was a year where I shared texts and photos and videos with my older brother, Matthew, and spoke to my sister, Angela, through computers and phones, and realised I wasn’t as cut off as I imagined myself to be.

It was an exhausting year, and an exhilarating one, and one that helped highlight the significance of each of these attributes. Because although the adventuring was eye-opening and inspiring, and it was for the adventuring that I originally stepped out of my house in Ardeer and trotted off to Europe, it was the more subdued moments that really made my year worthwhile.

It was weekends with Alex, chatting over coffee or making meals together, or doing nothing at all but sitting on the couch and watching TV, that made the hours of work slip from my shoulders.

It was sitting with Mum and Dad in an irish pub or an Airbnb kitchen and having a beer or a cup of tea, and talking as if the miles that had previously separated us and the months spent physically apart were a brief nuisance already evaporating from our memories.

It was seeing my family’s faces in my laptop and mobile, and laughing like we always do until I could have sworn they were in the room with me, our conversation creating a temporary bubble where the laws of time and space were suspended, that punctured my isolation and deflated it.

It was all these interactions, these small and intimate moments amongst the labour of work and the highs of adventuring, that made the external stressors of the rest of the world that usually hammered at my attention become nothing more than the sound of rain falling somewhere outside while I was tucked up warm indoors.

2017 exhausted me, but it also exhilarated me to learn that what I really want from my life is these quieter moments, moments with Alex, conversations with my siblings, tea with my parents. Because while the adventuring is great, and standing on a mountain in Scotland laughing and screaming into the wind will have your adrenaline racing, it’s the getting warm and dry at the bottom with someone you love that gives it significance.

So bring on 2018, a year where I will marry the woman I love and build a life with her. A year where, by the end of it, I will no longer be torn between two cities, but will finally have a home in Vienna. A year where I’ll celebrate two weddings with my family, and see my brother marry his best friend.

A year where I’ll work less, and probably adventure less, but instead make time for the quiet moments that make both things worthwhile.

DIGITAL MEDIA SAID YES

Once again I am reaching out after a period of long silence, and once again I can only plead sheer exhaustion and lack of available time as my excuse. My ten day working week has continued, sometimes stretching out to a fourteen day working week, and once (and only once as I learnt it was a very bad idea) into a twenty-one day working week.

But, ladies and gentleman, I am now an engaged man, and have a wedding to pay for.

That is correct, since we spoke (or since last I wrote and you read) I have procured myself a fiancé. I dropped to one knee, offered up a ring, and she deemed my offering acceptable and agreed to sticking around for the rest of my life. I am now a very happy man.

But that is a whole other blog. Or, in reality, a whole other novel. Despite neglecting this blog and you dear readers like kids now neglect the fidget-spinners they desperately needed six months ago, I have not been idle. In fact, I wrote a book. It was with this (along with said ring) that secured me a future wife.

The book detailed the rather exotic and epic journey my relationship with Alex has been on over the past four and a half years, beginning in Vietnam, over to Austria, interweaving through various European countries, to Australia and the hoard of family and friends Alex met, and finishing up in Greece, where I read Alex the last page of the story, finishing with the line, “Alexandra, will you marry me?” whereupon she said yes.

She didn’t really have a choice, I’d written her a book after all. (Note to any prospective proposers: Trap your partner with an act so kind they’d look terrible to refuse. Guaranteed future happiness).

Cover V2

(Book Cover: Designed by yours truly)

In addition to that book, I’ve also written a novella, which has gone through its alpha reader, Damian, and beta readers, Holly, Matt, and Alex, and is now almost ready for the public. I’m hoping to submit it to a publisher in the long-term, but more on that when it eventuates.

Because now we’ve reached the crux of this blog, and the reason I have revived, yet again, this faithful dog of a blog: I’ve also written another article. I metaphorically got down on one knee to the American Journal of Nursing and offering up a ring of my words, and they said yes. The article was published yesterday, not in their physical magazine as with my previous articles, but on their blog, which can be found here for your reading pleasure: https://ajnoffthecharts.com/unusual-privilege-patients-memorable-grace/

Thanks to all for reading, for also accepting my ring of words, you’re all fiancés to me. But just so we’re all clear, Alex is the actual fiance. That could have gotten messy.

More (hopefully) soon.

ALIVE AND WRITING, I SWEAR

Readers of this blog (if there are any left post my period of neglect) would have noted my long absence. This is not because London has swallowed me whole and I am lost wandering the tunnels of the Underground. Nor is it because I have given up writing and all modern forms of communication, and am now blogging solely through the art of cave drawings. (Although if I was lost in the tunnels of the Underground, this would be a great way to pass the time).

IMG-20170527-WA0006

(Proof I am alive and petting random wild animals)

Life has been busy. After an inexplicable pay decrease (thank you England, and the way you look after your nurses), I decided to increase my work hours to compensate. London is a greedy bitch and rent isn’t cheap, nor is flying to Vienna each fortnight, and so, given I was only clinging on financially by my fingernails, I needed to increase my income.

Luckily for me, working as an agency nurse, this option exists for me. I pick and choose the days I work, and previously I had used this to my advantage to have four-day weeks and long weekends. But it also goes the other way, and so my working weeks suddenly got a lot longer as I commenced working ten-day stretches, then heading to Vienna for four days. Technically, this is simply full-time work, ten days in a fortnight with my two weekends bunched at the end. But let me tell you, working all days back-to-back, it feels like a lot more.

Added to this is that I started a new line of work where I act as a sort-of community emergency nurse. Patients are recognised as deteriorating by their GPs and we are called in to do a full assessment and commence a plethora of interventions and tests to try and improve their worsening condition and avoid a hospital admission. This work is interesting and satisfying as you can see almost immediately the effect you have on a patient. The only downside (or upside given my desire to get some of that sweet, sweet green) is that the shifts are twelve hours long. My working week just got that little bit longer.

In the last ten-day stretch I managed to work one hundred hours. This is coupled with hour long bus rides at either end of my shift to get to and from work, and the sheer physical toll of walking through the streets of London, and I have little time or energy left for blog entry writing.

The brief time I do have left I spend with my beautiful girlfriend, recuperating under her administrations in Vienna, or trying to cram the German language into my head. Mein Deutsch wird immer besser, aber es gibt immer mehr zu lernen.

But, as stated, this does not mean I have stopped writing, which brings me to the reason for resurrecting this platform and reaching out to you, dear reader.

Just this month a reflective article of mine was published in the most recent edition of the American Journal of Nursing. It details the experience I had of verifying the death of a patient, and what actually goes into this process.

 

You can find it here and download a pdf version for free: Verification.36

Or if you’re super keen and want to part with some of your own sweet, sweet green, you can buy the whole journal here: http://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Pages/currenttoc.aspx

 

Thanks for reading, and sticking with me through the long silences and random german sentences. That is true friendship.

P-DAY II

Years ago I wrote a post titled “P-Day” celebrating the face that I had been published for the first time (The P stands for published. Clever, right?). A short story of mine had been published in an Australian science-fiction and fantasy magazine, and I was pretty ecstatic about it. Someone had given me money just for writing some words down. And I like writing words down, it’s something I do even when I’m not getting paid for it.

At the time, the story was literally the first one I had ever submitted to a magazine. I had typed away during my off hours working as a nurse in my graduate year, and once it was done, I decided to try to get it published. First story sent off, and three months later they got back to me saying that they wanted to publish it. I thought this was pretty fantastic, that getting published wasn’t all that hard, and so after writing my cleverly titled post, I already anticipated the joy of writing the next post sharing with the world that another piece of writing had been published.

That day is today.

My first story was published four years ago.

In the intervening years I have submitted a plethora of stories to a plethora of magazines, and now have a plethora of rejection letters (I read through them when I’m in need of a good cry). It turns out that first one had been a fluke, and my presumption that published stories would come thick and fast was entirely incorrect.

Recently, I wrote a piece about the protection needed to work in the medical field, the process I had undergone in order to still function in an environment where you deal with sickness, disappointment, depression, and death. I thought it might be relevant enough to other nurses, and to really anyone who deals with stress in their job, and so submitted it to the American Journal of Nursing.

Four months ago they told me they wanted to publish it. A week ago they did just that.

If you’re interesting in reading it, you can find a link to the website here.

As the writer, I received a physical copy for free (swish), and am luxuriating in the first printed version of something I wrote (the first publication was an e-magazine, and so I never had the tactile pleasure of holding it in my hands. Or holding it tightly to my chest while I sleep. Leave me alone, I’m excited).

It took four years, and a lot of rejection, and even more persistence, but I am glad to finally share this post with you.

Thanks for sticking with me.