Sunday, 23 October 2011

Three Weeks Early and One Week Later.

Two hours after writing my blog last week, grandchild number six was born. Heavily pregnant Rebecka was staying over to meet older sister Jennifer who was visiting on the Sunday. Just as I finished my blog Rebecka announced that her waters had broken and it was all action stations. At 06.50 little Jack was born – three weeks early. Conceivably [sic] the midwife who delivered Jack would have been trained and educated at our School, more of which later.

As Rebecka has yet to return to her own home, preferring to stay here all week, it has been a somewhat busy week. It’s been more late nights and early, early mornings. The West Wing resembles a maternity unit, and the number of visitors arriving during the week has made Amsterdam Airport on a busy Bank Holiday weekend look completely tame. Yesterday it was the Lincoln contingents turn. Now Saturdays are meant for doing the chores and starting the relaxation promised by a weekend away from work. Yesterday turned out different. I got to understand where the ninth century Bishop Aethelwold of Litchfield was coming from when he commissioned the manuscript The Book of Cerne. The work is famous for its inclusion of the Harrowing of Hell, possibly the earliest surviving Christian drama script. This play describes Christ’s decent into hell. Spookily the story is depicted in a wonderful stone frieze high up on the walls of Lincoln Cathedral.

Tuesday was an interesting day. The morning was about dealing with what turned out to be in-appropriate behaviour by a student towards other students and staff in the School. A difficult meeting to have and unfortunately it was a meeting with a very sad outcome. Unlike the afternoon which involved a PhD viva. As regular readers will know, I think that taking part in PhD viva is a huge privilege. I tend to treat each viva as a chance to have a conversation rather than simply facilitating an examination. And so it was on Tuesday - it was a great conversation and the outcome was a good one.

Thursday was slightly stranger day. I was lucky enough to be part of a group visiting Keele University to explore partnership opportunities. So 08.30 saw me sitting in a mini-bus travelling down the M6 motorway alongside the VC and other assorted colleagues from across the University. My day at Keele was hosted by Professor Andy Garner, an internationally renowned academic and practitioner from the field of Pharmacology. He is the Dean of Health and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Keele University, and introduced me to the first virtual ward I have ever seen.

Imagine walking onto a ward that is there, but as you try to touch anything, a bed, a patient and so on, it’s not there. Yet you can pick up the patients notes, flip the pages, and read everything that has been written. You can talk to the patients and be with them while they vomit (yes into a bowl that you can see, but can’t touch or smell), and you can intervene and provide treatment – if it happens to be wrong it might kill the virtual patient, which of course is much better than doing so in real life. The experience showed me what might be possible at Media City, and possibly what it is I don’t yet know about what it is I don’t know in terms of using such technology.

And as we enjoy a slightly warmer and brighter weekend than at first thought possible I am sending envious glances to those colleagues who this weekend are able to walk in the hills or on beaches, but I am also sparing a thought for those colleagues who might be busy preparing for their viva on Tuesday, or making a start with sorting out their expressions of interests for the new Director roles.

And those midwives – an interesting experience. Clearly they are very good at doing what they do, but I found the juggling between what is offered as official advice and guidance and that gleaned from practical experience an interesting cultural manifestation of what appears to be contemporary midwifery practice. I won’t say anything about the quality of the written comments the midwives make when reporting on what they have encountered at each visit, but I do intend to write a paper about the obscurity of succinctness in such records.