Sunday, 19 April 2015

2 Brigadiers, 3 Days Travel, 4 Paracetamol and finally we get to be United in Abu Dhabi

I always travel light. For most trips I usually take nothing more than my trusty back pack. I have long ago mastered the knack of being able to pack fresh clothes, including a daily change of underwear, the necessary toiletries, laptop and the other essential items needed for brief trips into my back pack. I try not to take anything more than I need. Last week I was travelling to Abu Dhabi, and although it was a brief trip, I wanted to take some suits to wear at the meetings I was attending. So I left my back pack at home and took along a small suitcase. 

Stupidly, thinking I had more room than normal, I took a new toilet bag full of pockets, zips and space. I gleefully filled this with everything I thought I would need and packed in my suitcase ready to check it in. Out of the wardrobe came my new black leather briefcase for the laptop, iPad and business papers and off I went to the airport. I was flying with Etihad, and as the plane was late arriving into Manchester there was a long delay before passengers could board. 5 hours after getting out of bed I was still in Manchester. Eventually we took off and my attention turned to lunch. Whilst the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was chilled, so was the watercress soup – (it was insipid and unseasoned too). To top it all they ran out of cheese.

So some 8 hours after climbing out bed that morning and flying somewhere over Istanbul, the dull ache that had been growing steadily blossomed into a pounding, splitting headache. I reached for my bag for some paracetamol, only to realise it wasn't my faithful back pack, and the paracetamol was in my bag in the hold. Thankfully, whilst there was no cheese to be had, one of the cabin crew did have some paracetamol and shortly thereafter, the headache started to recede. And after a couple of glasses of Glenlivet it had gone completely.

I knew that whilst paracetamol is an effective analgesic (pain reliever) it was a fairly safe drug (although over dosing can cause liver damage and death). A new study published last week in Psychological Science by Geoffrey Durso of the Ohio State University (US) has revealed that paracetamol can also leave people feeling emotionally numb as well. The research which recorded people's responses to photos that were pleasant, neutral or very unpleasant after being given paracetamol, showed the people didn't feel the same degree of emotional response as did the people who took placebos.

The paper suggested that paracetamol might tap into the sensitivity that makes some people react differently to both positive and negative life events. I am not this was the case with me, I think it was just Etihad's poor service that was the cause. And in a week which saw reports of record numbers of GPs wishing to leave the UK, it seems that the NHS might not be getting a very good service from some of our GPs. Collectively, they issued some 22 million prescriptions last year at a cost of £3.67 per prescription) which costs the NHS over £80 million (or in run up to the election - 3200 more nurses) a year for drugs that cost as little as 19p in most supermarkets (perhaps 23p for Tesco’s Finest J ).

Abu Dhabi was its usual hot self. I’m sure it gets greener every time I go there. I was there attending the Al Mafraq Juvenile Rehabilitation Project Board meeting.  The meeting was a long one. The Brigadiers were in feisty mood and the issues we faced were challenging and difficult. As always, the Emirati hospitality was wonderful, and after many cups of very, very sweet tea, much discussion the somewhat rhetorical and transactional nature of the business of the meeting was concluded. The rather more informal 'unofficial' meeting followed and I felt real progress was being made. The project is already making a difference to the lives of the young people involved. The next stage, the production of a range of high quality and culturally sensitive learning programmes was already well under way. 

I was really pleased and a little proud as I sat with our team in the hotel grounds later on in the day. They had dealt brilliantly with the heat, the cultural issues, the work of the project and it was wonderful to spend some time with them relaxing and sharing stories late into the night. We sat outside in the hotel gardens and I have to confess I don’t know whether it was the heat, or that small glass of beer I had that led to my headache the following morning. Thankfully I had access to my paracetamol and by the time I settled myself into my seat for the flight home later that morning, the headache was already a thing of the past. Finally, for those who are interested in such things, I was told that the word Etihad (who are the main sponsors of Manchester City football club) is Arabic for United