It's now feeling like quite a while since I was employed by the NHS, so long that I'm almost starting to feel normal. Nine months to be exact, a whole gestation's - worth into my new unfettered life (and though I'm still working as a health visitor it's not for the NHS) but it's even longer since I worked in a hospital, and light years since I did that long stint of night duty in Casualty (as we used to call it, but now rebranded A&E) at the London Hospital (now rebranded the Royal London) in Whitechapel. I loved working in casualty.
Lots of drama and plenty of nights when it all got a bit violent and we'd all be locked in the office while someone rampaged and flung the chairs around and we'd call the police to sort it and come out when they had.
So now with a few degrees of separation between us I can look back fondly on the old Organisation and even read books about it all and not have a conniption. In fact I quite like a bit of medical reading these days and so when Tom Reynolds's sequel to Blood, Sweat and Tea arrived and very neatly called More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea (why mess with success) I hid it.
I hid it because the last one came back in 2006 and was whisked off by the Kayaker and his mates and hasn't been seen since. Half of them went off to train as para-medics and the rest kept paddling those big rivers just while they waited to see how the mates got on.
I actually caught a glimpse of Tom Reynolds on Breakfast TV a few weeks ago. Kate Silverton almost needed resuscitation at Tom's suggestion that people really did call an ambulance because they had a verruca and I think it was a close call for the defib.
Kate, you might recall, the one whose hair I had envied and instructed my hairdresser accordingly, but three re-incarnations and a lot of wax later I've sensibly reverted to type, along with an acceptance that I lack the bone structure plus I must have at least twenty years on her.
Anyway Tom is really Brian Kellett, an emergency medical technician with the London Ambulance Service whose blog on day to day life 'neath the blueys and the sirens, Random Acts of Reality, not only didn't get him the sack but actually got him a book deal with Scott Pack at The Friday Project (now part of Harper Collins) and this second volume carries on in the vein (sorry) of the first.
Tom's patch is East London so it's going to be gritty stuff, lots of fourth floor flats, drug addicts, old ladies tripping over pavements, paperwork, cardiac arrests, feral teenagers,dodgy nursing homes and a wonderfully readable mixture of comedy and sadness, much despair at a bureaucratic system that creaks and some jaw-dropping moments of public arrogance that quite defy description.
We used to think we were out on the front line as health visitors, in an out of people's homes often at some of the most stressful times in their lives, but I think Tom and Co. are even further out there and with high expectations resting on their shoulders. This is often compounded by the fact that a high proportion of us watch E.R. or Casualty and Holby City and therefore assume we know what the ambulance crews do...you know Josh and all those miracles he used to work?
If the building collapsed (when didn't it) forget risk-assessment, Josh was pushing everyone aside to get in there.
Blazing factory ? No worries send in Super-Josh?
Imminent birth of octuplets in a shopping centre? Josh is your man.
So to set the record straight I dialled 999, made up some story about a cat having been asleep for three months and requested that Tom Reynolds attend the 'dovegreyreader asks...' armchair immediately. It was an emergency, no time to waste and he very kindly blue-lighted in to answer our questions and tell it like it really is and you won't want to miss Tom's responses tomorrow, including his verdict on the Rockster.
He's right, how can I have missed it all these years?