Hull, Catching Up To The Present

Oh what a feeling!? What am I supposed to be feeling? What am I feeling? Or is it more important to be conscious of what I’m thinking? Are those things simmilar? Should feelings and thoughts be pushed aside as I focus on the tasks at hand? There are numerous things that have to be thought through not the least of which are those things that are immediate.

I’ve started a new job. This placement is temporary and hopefully it and I lasts until the end on November. At the present moment I have been here for almost two weeks. I spent the first week trying to capture the last few days of Chrl and my holiday. It was important to get those last moments down in some form. There has been an issue that has cropped up. That is the issue of connectivity. This was kind of stressed as my time whittled away trying to connect to the rest of the world. There are limited options available to me. I will have to do the best that I can under the circumstances.

First days at a new place of employment are important days when an idea of how things are going to be looking shapes itself. I was a bit bleary eyed in the morning. Still kind of halfway in holiday mode and also thinking about Chrl and our separation. Some kind of a defence mechanism has set in isolating feelings insulating me from feeling a longing to reunite. I wanted to come in and make a good first impression. From the email that my new boss sent me I knew that I would be working with an all female crew. I wondered what kind of collection of people they would be. Emails from the agency suggested that it was a nice group of people that worked there. I kept the stubble that has been growing on my face and enjoyed the last few moments outside before heading in a few minutes before I was supposed to. The front receptionist eyed me with a bit of a suspicion until I told her who I was and what I was doing here. She directed me to the back in order to find the control room. That’s where everybody was congregated.

There were three people in the control room Leonie, Laura and David. David is a part time employee who comes in twice per week. He is a bit older and used to be a supervisor at some other department. He is doing this job to maintain his skills and obviously make some extra cash. Leonie is a young looking tech/radiographer who has worked here for a while. Laura is one of two clinical assistant who is responsible for booking our clients. I got a bit of an orientation from Leonie regarding where everything is and how things basically work. I shadowed David during a couple of his injections to get a feel for how their procedure works. It was a bit of a difficult cannulation and there was a bit of spillage as he tried to get the sugar reading done. He said later that it wasn’t the smoothest injection he’s done. Maybe my presence made him a bit nervous.

The main person in charge is Shanel who showed up a bit later. She had an appointment to go to in the morning. Whereas everyone I met first was British Shanel is Maltese and the difference in personality from her colleagues is quite pronounced. As the day progressed the conversations allowed all of us to get to know each other. I performed my first FDG injection for a PET/CT scan in this department and came to the conclusion that it will be an easy ride for the rest of the time that I will be here. The workload is spread out over many people so that no one really has much work on their shoulders. There is a bit of data entry to do after each patient but that is about it.

This department is located on the grounds of an old hospital. My residence is on the top floor of the former nurses residence. The bottom two floors are now some kind of an administrative set of offices. The rest of the grounds have specialized departments that treat cancer and there is a specialized cardiac centre located here as well. The PET/CT centre that I am working for has only recently been opened. When I say recent it is a relative term as it is only about four years old. It is run by a private firm that has won a contract from the NHS to operate it. They are responsible for the day to day running of the machines for the health service. The company runs many such sites for the health service across the country. The building is purpose built and it is nicely laid out to allow a natural flow of patients through the department. All of the features needed for a modern standard have been put into place here. Everything from modern monitoring devices to fume hoods for dispensing doses, and most importantly a new advanced PET/CT system. One that employs a continuous movement of the patient through the gantry instead of static bed positions used in older generation systems.

I wanted to work in PET/CT sometime during my tenure here in the UK before heading back to Canada. It is something that I could use to puff up my CV as I will be looking for work back in Canada. I don’t know if there will be much work in PET/CT where I will be headed to but it’s good to have the experience. I will be hoping to use some of the skills that I have used in other related fields in order to gain employment. This part is still far off in the future I don’t want to form any anxiety over this point. Anyways, the daily routine is quite easy here. In the mornings the QC is set to start automatically in the morning. By the time someone shows up in the morning to open the place up it is finished and ready for inspection. The system is then restarted as any system should be in order to reset any programs that may be stuck in some infinite processing loop. It helps to cut down errors that invariably happen at the worst possible time.

The doses arrive and what has to be checked is that they have passed their QC. This is done online as it is much more efficient than waiting for a fax to come in. The doses are shipped before the QC is finished because of the short half life of the material. By the time it reaches here the QC is usually done and it is ready for the first patient that arrives sometime around 0830. All the patients have to fast for at least six hours prior to their arrival. This is to reduce the amount of glucose that is circulating in their system so that it doesn’t interfere with the radioactive form of glucose that we inject into them. This FDG then circulates inside of them for an hour and their scan takes about 20 minutes. The FDG is absorbed proportionally to the metabolic rate of various tissues. Cancerous cells of certain cancers have a higher metabolic rate that is exacerbated by fasting. These tissues having been starved of energy absorb the FDG allowing us to localize the disease. There are no side effects but there is an associated degree of radiation exposure that falls within generally agreed to limits. We perform anywhere from ten to fourteen scans per day and in the interests of personal safety I will not be asked to perform more than seven injections per day.

Besides work there are also the practical things that have to be attended to. Things like getting food and exploring my surroundings. The closest store, a convenience store was only discovered by me during the second week here as I was coming home from a day out in Hull. When I walked to it it took about twenty minutes. I has the basics that I would need if I was to go there to buy something. There are other options however both are about a thirty minute walk away. If I go in one direction there are a number of stores to choose from. These are larger stores almost super shops carrying a wide selection of items. There are three of these shops all of which are concentrated around the “A” road that brushes against the hospital and continues south toward these stores. These stores range from a discount store all the way up to an upmarket shop. When I go in the other direction the shops are concentrated in the centre of the village. These are therefore a bit smaller but inside of them I can find all of the necessities that are necessary for my needs. All I need these shops for are food. As I walked the aisles of all of them I made mental notes about their contents. Different stores have different selections and different brands to try out. I’m trying to balance budgetary concerns with nutrition and taste.

One of the stores is brand new. It opened to great fanfare and was even discussed at work. It is a discount store that markets its own brands with flavors that imitate flavors found on the shelves of its competitors. What differs is the brand. There is something that is expected when a brand is picked from the shelf and put into the basket. One recognizes the package and the name. There is almost a hallucinatory taste that passes through conscious awareness even when the actual morsel of food is still inside the package. These choices are almost automatic and changing one’s preferences becomes hard to do. I’m learning though and some things have actually been alright. Due to the size of the fridge there is only so much food that I can have in the fridge. It turns out that there are five people sharing one little fridge. I managed to assert control of two cupboards where I can store some of my provisions. I am careful about how much food I buy. I don’t want to waste any and at the same time I want to have enough but I only have so much space. Based on my experience I have about three days worth of food at any time in the fridge. These trips to the shop provide me with a much needed activity. It’s to take away the boredom of where I find myself now.

The hospital is located up on a hill and from my room I can see the city. I can see the stadium from the spot outside where I am forced to inhale my fresh air. The grounds are entirely free from this enjoyment. With the weather being warm it isn’t too bad but I suspect that as the summer turns into fall and the associated weather and temperature descends onto this land it will all feel different from how it feels now. As I inspect and explore the geography around me the full extent of what is around me becomes clearer. There are a few places that I immediately think would make a great photo. I need to get my camera out in order to do that. There haven’t been opportunities to do much of that except during the first weekend here when I made a trip into the city.

It may be that the restlessness I felt the first weekend stemmed from the inertia of our european holidays. For a month there we made our way around europe moving every few days to a new destination. We had time to explore our surroundings and see new things. These moments were really enjoyable and here in Hull it looked like there was some kind of festival going on. It is reason enough to go and see what it is all about. The city doesn’t look very large. It is situated on the northern side of an estuary that is crossed by the Humber Bridge. This bridge is longer than the San Francisco bridge of similar design. I didn’t visit that bridge that weekend but I can see the top of it from the hospital grounds. Hull is also in the middle of preparations as the 2017 City of Culture. Ironically it has received money from the EU and has been selected by Europe as the city of Culture for that year. This festival is some kind of a warm up to those festivities that will happen next year. All around the centre of the city all of the pavement is being renewed so that the entire downtown looks like a construction zone. What impressed me a bit has been some of the architecture that has been built here. Like any city the architecture says something about the city and its people. Here there is a sense of toughness. The buildings aren’t overwhelming but are mostly compact reflecting its history as a trading port from the time of its founding. It has been an industrial city since industry developed and changed the landscape. It was bombed during the second world war and there is even an air raid siren attached to one of the chimneys at the hospital. Since then the industries have changed and the transition has been hard on this city. This City of Culture designation is a way of lifting the city up and injecting some funds in order to beautify it. It’s plastic surgery that will improve the appearance but may not necessarily deal with the structural issues underneath.

The first week was really nice weather wise so what does one expect to happen over the weekend? Rain, yes that’s right the clouds moved in and dumped water from the sky. The clouds threatened rain from the very beginning of the day. As I prepared for my outing I grabbed my trusty rain jacket and put it in the bag. I figured out the bus that I had to take, luckily the hospital is fairly well serviced by busses running in and out of the city to the hospital. These buses run two to three times an hour depending on the day and hour of the day. Saturday is not bad but Sunday is a bit skint for busses. No matter I made it to the city and got off to begin my exploratory journey. City centres are generally a collection of stores, government buildings and other related structures. These structures have a variety of ages and some of the older government buildings are adorned with slowly decaying statues. I was making my way to the waterfront to the Deep which is a modern structure right on the waterfront that is an expression of the new Hull that is emerging and moving into the future. There are neat old arcades that are maintained by the shops that line the passage. These are a taste of how life was back in the late nineteenth century. Ornate iron pillars hold up the cloudy glass that allows natural light to penetrate from above regardless of the weather. Small details have received a fresh coat of paint reflecting a vibrancy of color that was popular back then. Most of the streets and alleys in the old part of town feel a bit cozy and narrow as it often is in towns that have developed before cars were invented. Old parts of such cities are generally preserved even if the size of the buildings and living quarters seems like not enough. These buildings however serve as a model for new buildings that aren’t much bigger actually.

The Freedom Festival that I was after didn’t seem to be in full swing yet. It wasn’t quite eleven when I got there maybe the impending rain was keeping people at bay. The festival was on the waterfront near the Deep. The Deep by the way is an aquarium that is probably worth a visit one of these days. The sharp angles and angle of the building make it look like a jagged piece of rock jutting out from the coast. It is like this city which juts out from the isolated land all around to face what nature throws at it. It reflects that toughness and resilience that is needed to survive here. Well the toughness that was once required to make it here. It was good to see the water and once I saw the flatness of the surface I looked around to see what else there is to see.

This waterfront is slowly being regenerated into offices and fancy waterfront flats. As in many cities artists and entrepreneurs who sought large cheap places have made this area livable. The festival itself has stages set up as well as art installations throughout. There was a little science presentation that captivated an audience on a sunken stage on a dry dock. Further away in another area it looks like there are some clubs that are shut for the night but also restaurants and pubs that are opening and are getting ready for business. I found a place to get a snack and a coffee. It took them way too long to bring that coffee to me. Rain began to fall.

As these drops fell from the sky they removed the possibility of seeing a collaborative art project take shape. I made my way along the river back into town in order to find the park where this construction was to take place. It was supposed to be a cardboard  structure construction that is run by some conceptual artist. It is supposed to represent the power of collaboration and say something about community. Due to the weather it didn’t happen but I did find some interesting pieces along the way and even had a chat with one of the friendly volunteers who instigated a conversation. The rain put a damper on further investigations of the city. I also wanted to go to the new shopping centre and see what’s there. That centre also has a super shop that I’m familiar with. I was going to purchase some ready meals that come in great packages that I will recycle to use as food storage containers. This gives me the opportunity to prepare food ahead and store it compactly in the fridge. The rest of the day as well as the following day was spent indoors avoiding the rain. I finished unpacking and rearranging and frittered the day away frustrated at my internet connection over the wifi.

The following week has been quite easy work wise. My morning start times have varied depending on what has to be done as well as my end times. One of the beauties of working for a private contractor has been the ability to vary my hours. It is also a matter of necessity that I learn how to perform the full range of the tasks that are needed to be done. There is an upcoming change in personnel here that will affect the way things run. There are thirteen weeks left and my personal countdown has begun. My thoughts are already racing ahead towards the future. With the variable times I haven’t been able to settle into a daily routine. Maybe that will take a bit more time.

Chrl during all this time has been on her own odyssey. She came back from europe and had to recover and regain some energy. She then had to pack and get ready to move to Saskatoon. The rail journey took forty hours! She is now partially settled in her new room and has started her classes as well as new life out there on the prairie. She is happy being there and says that the school and program is really good. We are having to adjust to each of our individual timetables and a different difference in time between us. There is one less time zone that separates us. Our journeys continue in new ways and there is a new kernel of excitement that is beginning to germinate and grow as our reunion gets closer.









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