Sunday, December 20, 2015

a new day

2016 is literally around the corner, leaving me with 18 months to retirement. Its with a mixture of trepidation, expectation and hope that I turn the page. Work is work and at least now I can feel the countdown had begun to finally finishing. Odd really that you spend 20+ years working on a career only to be glad that its over. But over it is. I'm tired of it and whatever pleasure I had in it has dissipated and faded away. I've reached the dissy heights of being the Chief Medical Officer for a large VA clinic. I'll reserve my opinions on the VA until I'm no longer a civil servant, suffice to say that its a moving target more in more ways than one.

The exciting news is that I'm pairing up my V-Strom with a sidecar . What ? Yes I know a slightly bizarre thing to do. Well I've been keen to travel the country by Motorcycle for some time, or by Camper Van. Now the Camper van is still an option however the idea of getting a sidecar for , yes you have guessed it  , Murphy (facebook : MurphySmurphy) to ride in, has taken hold. I think it will be a hoot.

So I hope it will be delivered in time for my January Vacation.

By Jan 31st I have to deliver the definitive draft of my updated Chapter in 'Principles of Clinical Medicine for Space Fight , 2nd Ed ' .

I have several co-authors , who I hope will be able to contribute to this editions Chapter. The subject is Medical Evacuation from Space, something that I have worked on foe many years , although much less so than when I was a NASA. My Space Medicine swansong - a nice way to end.

My Sabre 34 SV Bora Da is coming along well ( Facebook SVBORADA) with most of the modifications I wanted to do complete.

 I post a Video soon. Its turning into quite the cruising boat and is ready , albeit a little prematurely , for de islands and places distant. I may never sail around the world but I think however far I get it will be an adventure.

 Life is short !! Grab it while you can.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


In a moment of madness I just re-read most of this blog that started about 6 years ago. It is surprisingly non-specific about the thing that ironically affects me most. Perhaps it best that way as I should do all I can to protect the innocent. What are we talking about - well love , companionship, a partner, however you choose to call it.

Truth be told I've been on my own almost since the blog started, when my partner at the time had to relocate as she was mobilized and well.... didn't come back. I have loved two women in my life , chased a few more and left a few broken hearts in the carnage .But the reality is that when I think back only two women really mattered in a way that if I had a time machine I would go back and fix all the idiot stupid crap I did. But like any self centered ego maniac its always been about me, yip me .

Of course they both know who they are and both know that I was the one one who bears full responsibility for the breakups. Don't get me wrong I'm no self-sacrificing , beat myself up, oh wow is me type. I screwed up simple as that. There were both amazing intelligent beautiful women who hit me like a ton of bricks the moment I met them. Retreading the past helps no-one, what's done is done,  suffice to say they both eventually married someone else and had a family with someone else.

I  wish more than I can say that I had embraced the life that was on offer, but like an idiot I didn't, simple as that. I cant go back in time and fix it , only go forward and hope for a third shot at life. This time I wont screw it up. Better late than never.

Monday, September 28, 2015

the best is yet to come

Well one can only hope. I turned 56 this year , wow 56 ,still reeling from it. The good news is that according to the Feds I can retire at 57 - April 2017 to be exact. I thankfully have enough in savings and 401 etc to survive - if somewhat modestly doing ... well whatever I want.

What's the plan ?. Combination of things . My new (to me )  boat is coming along as a work in progress, I will be able to practically live on it while pottering around the Bahamas or islands. I'm looking at buying a van to build out as a Camper. The VW Campers while awesome are really just overpriced antiques these days. The choice is to buy a truck and put a roof tent on top , or just get a simple van ( a Chevy Astrovan ?) that I can build out as a camper. Either way I want to t be able to tackle rough roads. The third leg of the triad is my motorcycle ( and the spare one . yes there is an almost identical one in the garage for a partner traveler) Its a Suzuki Vstrom 1000 and is set up for travelling.

Well that's the plan

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dragging my feet

Io Almost a year ago I prattled on about seizing the day. I bore myself talking about it , but taking little action to move in the right direction. Is anything different now?

Honestly it's a good question without a good answer, except that a deadline is looming. Nothing like a  deadline to get you moving and force a decision. March 31 2015 represents a point in time that I am able to cut the ties that bind so to speak. Odd really looking at a deadline. Will I have the balls to actually move on and not cling to the safety of a job and routine. As much as we complain about the daily grind of 8-5 , I suspect that there is some comfort in routine and expectation. It's easy to say that we 'have' to go to a job every day and plug away at paying bills, saving for the future and well .... Just getting on with it because that's what we do. One of the issues that crops up when I share my intentions with other people is the loss of health insurance . Yes I will be naked, so to speak. However there is some sadness that the need for health insurance is the main reason to grind away at a job I really don't enjoy.

I currently work at the Veterans health services. This is a touchy subject and I'll reserve my full opinions to the day that I leave. However it's no secret that there are problems not only with the way the VA is run, but also the absurd volume of work dumped on Primary care providers, and the occasional abuse of providers by Veterans that is tolerated, when they don't get exactly what they want. But that's for another day.

So to a boat, yes that friggin' boat. Well I did go see another vessel just before this recent trip to Belfast. It was a Vancouver 32. Interesting boat with potential. Oddly the main problem , besides the usual poor condition , was the cabin height. If I was 5 . 10 it would work but at 6 ft I am hitting the top of the cabin. Frankly that would drive my batty after a while. It also needed significantly more work that the listing would leave you to believe, and was as a result unrealistically priced. So the search continues but with a greater sense of urgency than before.

I also have to decide what to do about the motorcycle situation. Yes it's a 'situation'. I mainly use the Suzuki V-Strom 1000. It's a great tourer and I enjoy riding it. But the Harley sits now in the back of the garage , forlorn and dusty. I have been offered a reasonable price for it. It has low mileage and is in great condition. I also kept all the original parts that I removed for my own accessories. Actually it has a choppersque look and in fun to ride, but if I do make the changes I plan at the end of the year, well I really have no need for it. The ties that bind......

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Time waits for no man

For several years I have talked - mostly to myself - about the necessity of seizing the day. Grab life by the balls while you have it. Life isn't a dress rehearsal. And so on. The problem is that its been all talk. Yes  I have dithered and hesitated.  I know why and frankly I'm too embarrassed to admit it, but the time has come. As we enter 2014 - always preferred even numbered years - I have finally grasped the nettle and decided to live the life I talked about.

So what's the plan ? Pretty simple really. I have a job to April 2014 , after that I'm quitting in time for my 55th birthday. Hard to believe I'm 55 but there you go. One day I was in my 30's woke up and was in my 50's. I really want to travel around the world slowly and in a way that experiences it as much as I can. I have been a motorcyclist since I was 15 and so recently bought a VStrom 650. It was used and I serviced it and fitted it out for touring
I have been riding it out of necessity on a daily basis as my Xterra has died (still trying to figure it out) and its a great bike.

This summer I plan to ride across the USA in a trip that adds up to about 6000 miles and about 6 weeks. Phew .......... I'm excited and scared at the same time. After that I will head back to Florida finish out the Boat - Oh yes I'm finally getting boat , and then I'm headed off to the Caribbean for 8 months. After that .... well I have no idea , perhaps a VW Van to travel through S America.

Whatever happens , Im not sitting around waiting for life to come to me, Im putting one foot , or one tire in front of the other and going for it

Monday, October 7, 2013

Make it count

I am a liberal and believe in social justice and the need for equity and balance in the worlds wealth. Where does it come from ? I was born in 1959 in working class Belfast and by the time I was 10 my life and that of my family was turned upside down as Northern Ireland slide into chaos. I saw what was happening around me and reached the conclusion that life is about social inclusion , ensuring that everyone's voice counts, and that we are in this together. I also grew up believing that it was important to make a difference in life. Simple as that. Know that at the end of your life what matters is how you have lived. Sounds a bit , well, grand, and even smug. So this is a contrition, and as a lapsed Catholic guilt and confession are part of my psyche.

As I went through my life - I am now 54 - I was also fortunate to get a very good education and eventually  fulfilled a personal aim of working at NASA as a Physician/Engineer. That's right NASA. I was one of the few MD's from outside the USA to ever work there. On the way however I left casualties in my wake, both personally and professionally. I convinced myself that I was balancing personal ambition with working as a Physician for (in the USA) the uninsured. But ultimately I have ended up failing to fulfill my own promise and reneging on the values I supposedly hold dear, allowing self interest to dominate my life.

I knew that I had the ability and belief to make a difference and yet somehow I failed to do the very thing that I espoused. I am a Family Physician /Public Health Physician by training and I reached my nadir in 2005 in Houston when I spent three weeks at the Astrodome as part of the team that provided care to the displaced population from New Orleans during Katrina. Medicine, as a Family Dr, is normally a personal one on one activity and while satisfying doesn't have in my mind the impact of public health and policy. This is what I usually do as a Physician.

The point of this is to say that in life there are opportunities that come and go, the moment is fleeting and inevitably doesn't come again. On reflection I should have focused my medical career on Public Health and Policy, and its Political implementation. Not very sexy but actually has impact. I would be able to look back on a career that amounted to something. I remember watching Barack Obama making his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. Its times like this that with conviction a person gets in a car drives to the office of someone like Obama and says how can I help you get elected. I didn't.

It matters to make a difference. Life is changed by those who turn up

Friday, August 9, 2013

twists and turns

Life is a curious beast over which we have little control. Im amused by an advert on TV for a Financial Firm that says we only recruit people who know exactly where they are going and exactly what they want from life. Ah to have such clarity. I used to be an inveterate planner - now, not so much.

I have started to think in terms of life experiences and how life makes me feel , for want of a better word. My career such as it was has come - thankfully - to a crashing end. No more chasing the rainbow of success. It wasn't that wonderful when I got there and my personal life was a casualty in its wake. Entirely self inflicted I should add. So where to from here ?

Well lets be realistic and pragmatic. I'm 54. yip 54. I'm not going to be an astronaut or a brilliant physician. My daughter is 29 and living her own life , so my parental job is about done ( well it never really is but you know what I mean), and I'm single and straight. Not terribly exciting but it does present interesting options. Dementia is a Damocles sword hanging over my head, so I reckon I have 20 years before I start to go gaga. I'm also pretty healthy, no significant heart disease , no significant resp. or endocrine issues, and unless I have an undisclosed nasty cancer luring in me somewhere , no reason to suspect I won't last  longer than my brain.

I have a choice of staying at work until i'm 67 or so to collect a pension and max out my social security so I wont end up eating cat food, but in reality financially i'm ok with decent retirement savings and money in the bank. So working for another 13 years while sensible isn't too appealing.
Besides I can always get locum work as a physician when i'm an old duffer if need be. I have taken a short term job thru to the end of the year and possibly to end of March 2014. This will enable me to take advantage of the tax laws and dump a lot into my pension plan over two tax years. Sounds so pragmatic doesn't it.

I still haven't bought a boat. procrastination and indecision there , but I am actively looking. I've also been rethinking that a little. I have an idea to use a boat jan-jun each year in the Caribbean , and use the remainder to travel for work. I had hoped to do that with a company called ISOS, but that fell apart, and I still don't have a straight answer from them. Persona non-grata I guess. I have an idea to spend next summer and fall in New Zealand, and will start the licensing process in Jan, so that I can get a few months work as well.

Fundamentally this is all Ok, except that I don't have a home of my own. MMMMmmmm not sure I need one mind you either. Im happy renting. especially in summer in Fl when its easy. So whats been holding me back ?

Well my father died in March this year after a long illness. We were not close, and he had dementia, but all he had at the end was me as no-one else would visit him. It was a sad ending to a life of missed opportunities. I don't want the same. Im tired of being alone. Its been 4 years since my last relationship, and , well........ its overdue I found someone else. here I come.

I started to write about my life earlier this year, growing up in Belfast. it is less interesting than I thought to be honest, and reads life a litany of crap piled on crap. It was just the life we all had then, most of which has faded from my memory thank goodness. So I doubt ill persist with it . Im more interested in the next 20 years. It could be a blast. I hope so. I took the Harley out for a ride yesterday, and besides 3 morons pulling out in front of me in the space of a 100 miles, it was a blast. I should ride more, and will look for a club to ride with.

Time on this planet is limited and as Captain Picard once noted 'What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived'

Friday, March 8, 2013

life and death

At the beginning of March 2013 my Father died. He was 74 and had dementia. The truth is he 'died' a year or so ago when he stopped recognizing me. I traveled to Ireland 3 or 4 times a year to see my Mom and to see the old man, as I called him. The last visit was distressing in that he had absolutely no idea who I was but also his long term memory which had been holding out, was also gone. He had become a human being with no awareness of his surroundings or his own life. It was the sad end of a decline that started a few years ago when dementia forced him into care. I had lost touch with him for the year or so before I realized that things were not going well. I found him effectively homeless and drunk. It was a sad decline and I remain angry at the Social Services in Ireland for not intervening earlier which is their job, and myself for letting this happen.

I have had a difficult relationship with Tim for many years. His alcoholism dominated his life and that of our family. As a child I dreaded Sundays when he was abusively drunk. He tortured my Mother and my Sisters. From I was 18, I pretty much had checked out and left them to it, something which I find hard to forgive myself for, and the next 5 years were very difficult for them. My parents divorced about 20 years ago finally and my family was freed from him. But life is never that simple.

Who we are is affected by many things, where we were born, who are parents were, the society we lived in. The effect my father had on me is complex and I'll probably never fully grasp it. Its easy to use it as an excuse for who I am and my own failings and I don't. However I do wish I had figured out things earlier and embraced my own family and relationships in a non-destructive way. I hope I am a better father than he was even if I failed as a partner. Life moves on and the legacy of the 'old man' will fade over time. I have shed few tears for him and suspect I never will. Perhaps I should.

An obituary :
Tim Smart was a charmer of the old school, a dapper dresser who failed miserably to find the cure for his baldness, much to his distress. He was a butcher and a small businessman, and relatively successful. He was the youngest of 7 sons who are all now deceased and has one deceased sister and one living sister. He had two sons - one died in childhood, and two daughters. He was on his feet until 2 days before he died of pneumonia and died in his sleep in his bed. I hope he is resting in peace. I miss you Dad.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Medicine , a calling ?

When I was a kid at school I remember being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said a fighter pilot or a physician, maybe even an astronaut. I grew up in West Belfast in a 2 up 2 down house with an outside toilet and parents who were ordinary working class people and who had left school at an early age to work. The idea of being an astronaut was laughable, but having watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon at 10 years old, I thought ‘doesn’t look that hard’.

As my life progressed I  went to University and joined the RAF to train as a pilot, but failed to complete the course , ‘chopped’ in the vernacular. It was time for a rethink and Medicine again reared its head. I had been aware as a teenage the value of the local GP, not of course realizing the importance of universal medical care, especially to the working class who would otherwise be uninsured. Aneurin Bevan knew exactly what he was doing in 1947. I also wanted to try and combine Medicine with Aviation and after some effort managed to get into Bristol Medical school in the UK and re-joined the RAF Reserve in Aeromedical Evacuation.
At the Aeromed Sqn. I learned not only about Aviation Medicine but more broadly about disaster management and have had the opportunity to apply it through my career. I have had a wide career, research, academia, clinical (FP, UC, Hospitalist) space medicine,  but simple Family Medicine particularly in public health with the uninsured remains my forte. Here its about living on your wits, with little or no history, records, health care that has gradually deteriorated and few if any resources. The greatest fear of the patients I have seen is that they will be sent to the local hospital /ER…. and inevitable bankruptcy. As a result we took care of things that would ordinarily be transferred to a specialist or to the ER. It was a challenge daily and we would see everyone for babies to retirees on Medicaid/Medicare, who had no-where else to go. Sadly the Governor in Florida has decided to shift primary care from Public Health to the private sector. Bewildering as our costs ( and therefore the cost to the tax payer) were significantly below the private sector and 1/10 of a Primary care type visit to the local ER.  Then again his company did commit the largest ever Medicare fraud in history (which as CEO he of course knew nothing about), and I wonder what his motives are?

Medicine isn’t easy – especially in care for the uninsured/under insured and with patients who have no options. So I get it why Docs work in private care in Specialties, hidden behind the glass door in their clinic which says , “IF YOU HAVE NO MONEY OR INSURANCE , DO NOT PASS GO”. Its easy and as long as you do what your paying patients want – and ignore evidence based medicine – you will survive and make a good living. But its not why I became a Physician, and I think the essence of medicine as a Vocation has been lost in the mist. The direct link between $ and Medical care in the US has in my humble opinion, completely corrupted the process and until that direct link is broken this will continue to persist.

I'm a Dr because I believe in Medicine as a Vocation serving a community, and I think that I have the skills and training to make a difference in the lives of people who – often – have nowhere else to go. I'm no medical genius and no great diagnostician, but I’m calm organized in extremis and I hope know when to simply sit and listen to a patient who wants to do nothing more than talk. It’s a struggle daily to maintain a level of competence that patients expect, but the pleasure of seeing someone look up and know that your aim is to do your best for them and focus on their needs outweighs the stress.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How old are you

Odd question I realise, but one with a hidden message. I ask because I remember an interview with Billy Connolly, who is 70 years old, who said that when he is asked how old he is, he always says 37. The rationale is that as he said he stopped 'maturing ' by the time he reached 37 and hasn't significantly changed much in outlook and beliefs since then.

I remember a story from my Mom (not sure if it was about her) that an elderly woman is walking in town towards a store, the kind with large glass doors. As she approached the door another older woman walked towards her, and each time she moved to get out of the way this older woman kept walking in her path. Of course she was looking at herself.

I think its a question that can have multiple answers . I am an unashamed unabashed liberal. I make no apologies for it , its who I am. I am also agnostic, yes one of the heathens. The funny thing is that I have been that way - admittedly with a complete lack of sophistication at the time - since I was a teenager. I have carried around with me a sense of the lack of social injustice in the world for , well as long as I can remember.
As far as God goes, again once I began to think about it (I was brought up Catholic) I found the whole concept hard to accept, and eventually came to the conclusion I am agnostic. The odd thing is that when I am in a Catholic Church I do have a sense of belonging. I suspect that is because I spent my formative years there as an Altar Boy, and was educated in Catholic Schools.

They say as we get older we return to our faith roots. I'm not sure that is true, but I think there is an intellectual and an emotional side to religion, and we fall on one side or the other. What do they say ?, you can take the Man away from Catholicism  but you cant take the Catholic out of the man :-)

Career wise I think it all ended when I was in my mid 40's, albeit gradually over several years. I began to realise that it didn't mean a lot in the end and as I passed 50 it was clear that my 'career' as such had come to a crashing end. Now I have jobs that pay the bills. I will never set the world on fire and the world will not progress any further forward for any career achievement I might have made. That's a sobering thought for someone who pushed his career so much that it came at a high personal cost, which frankly wasn't worth it. The truth is it is also somewhat of a relief. Don't get me wrong I grew up in West Belfast with largely uneducated parents, in a society that had little expectation of me. I ended up as yaw'll know a Physician, Engineer , and worked at NASA. no mean feat.

I think if you ask the women in my life they would say 16. Yip I haven't exactly been committed in my life to the women I have loved, resulting in my reaching 53 single. But the reality is that I am the author of my own life, and so whatever excuse I may have , its all my doing as it where. I am who I am because of me. So I would say that emotionally - as far as relationships go - the penny didn't finally drop until I was 50. Bloody hell what a revelation. I suppose better late than never.

So the question of how old I feel is a slightly tricky one. When I look at pictures of myself I see the transformation from a little kid to a middle aged man, its  a very odd experience. There are a few tram lines on the face and perhaps too much time spent in the bright sun. But its a face of experience and I suspect it will another 5 + years before I see any significant change in my face. I hope it will reflect a sense of peace and contentment , a realization that even though I didn't achieve the great heights of industry or academia of anything much for that matter, as I have become older I have developed a far greater appreciation of those around me who care about me and recognize that there is some good in me. I understand that family  and friends are more important than any career ever was , and that a life without love for family and friends is an empty vessel. Not a bad chap really in the end.

How old am I ? As old as I feel on any given day, depending of course on who asks :-)

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Single life

Ah the single life. Booze, women, hedonism gone wild. Perhaps, although for my married male friends in the same age bracket, not quite as much fun as you would think. Not that I'm complaining, as it also affords me the freedom to essentially do as I please, but the truth is - as it always is - the grass ain't necessarily greener on the other side.

So - as one who embraces today's technology - I Googled the single life. What did I find ? well the Internet is replete with , how can I put it, Single Life protagonists. Most of them interestingly in their 30's. Mmmmm perhaps there is the rub. Its great when you are in your 20's and 30's, but it starts to get well...... old.

I have been single on and off most of my adult life. I'm 53, baldy, cant read without 'readers', and well at least I'm still thankfully under 200 lbs. I have my toys, a Harley, learned to fly, scuba etc etc and looking for a new ( to me ) sailboat. I do what I want when I want , in so far as  anyone can, and I'm taking a career break. Well lets be honest,  who - over 50 - still deludes themselves that they have a progressing career anyway. The truth is they just haven't been looking in the rear view mirror lately at the advancing hoards. If you haven't got there by 45 or so it ain't happening. So it seems, to me at least,  that the option of saying to hell with a career and instead embrace the philosophy of 'live de life', as it where, is the way ahead for those desperately hanging onto the 'career'. At the end of the day its just a way of paying the bills.

The one good thing to come from this is that I acquired a daughter along the way , who is now 28 and a High School teacher. She is awesome and as I said before if that is the best thing I do in my life, its as good as it gets. I haven't been a great dad and made to many mistakes, but I hope I made a better job than mine did. Mind you he didn't set the bar all that high. Having said that I wish I had done a better job and I will always regret not providing her with the family life and stability that she richly deserved. I'm sorry sweetheart.

So is it all wine women ( I'm straight) and song ? A life of wild indulgence , out partying all night and waking up beside a blond who's name you barely remember ? The life and soul of the party? Well perhaps somewhat when I was in my late teen's and early 20's. I was a bit  of a bad boy then and well, lets say enjoyed myself . Thankfully I embraced the idea of protection ( I had no idea I was so sensible) so I escaped unscathed and lived to tell the tale. But that was then and truthfully it took quite a few years after for me to figure out not only was it not coming back, but I am a bit done with it all.

Whats single life like now as a middle aged man (my new definition , middle age is now 40 - 60). Well there are times when frankly its a bit of sitting in your underwear watching crap on TV. Not quite as glamorous as it seems, and more than a tad boring at times. The problem is that there are not that many single people in their 50's without a ton of baggage. Men and women alike. Divorces, alimony, children, utterly broke after years of paying the bills. And women who are 50 and single are often left with the kids and divorced , and frankly a bit traumatized by it all, and who can blame them.

The funny thing for me was that I think I didn't figure out - until it was much too late - that being single as I got older, well kinda sucks. Life was - lets be honest - tough when I was a kid. We lived in a two up two down, with an outside toilet and the kids shared two beds. I am amazed that my Mom survived it, she put up with so much crap from my Old Man and as kids , you really don't know what to do. But that's another story, and we all survived to tell the tale. I am blessed with a great Mom and a wonderful Sister, who also comes along with - for me -  a great Brother in Law. Two for the price of one.

The upshot is that I think it left me with a sense that there is always something better out there. Why 'settle' for anything. Truthfully that has been a double edged sword. The upside is that I eventually got a great education ( MD, MSc, MPH etc)  and ended up as an Officer in the RAF. a Doctor , and eventually working at NASA. Yes bloody NASA.

When I was 10 I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, and thought - doesn't look that hard, that's what I am going to do. It took another 30 years but at 40 I walked into Johnson Space Center as an employee. The funny thing is now that those days are in the past, and it was an experience of a lifetime, it really doesnt matter as much as you would think.

One of the odd things about being on ones 'Todd' as its where, is how to decide things in life, when there is no-one to talk things thru with. Sure I can pick out a pair of shoes or a shirt in a store ( takes about 3 minutes) but when it comes to decisions that affect how I live , where I live, jobs  etc boy that can be paralyzing  The weird thing is that I am good , nay, great at it for someone else. I'm good at sorting the wheat from the chaff, looking at the options, and coming up with a strategy or solution. Dear Abbey eat your heart out.

Take for example this boat buying exercise. In an ideal world I'd spend 250,000 get my dream boat and Bobs your uncle. But I dont have 250k, instead nearer 50K to play with. Sure I'll get a great boat for that but there are compromises. I have looked at a few recently, put in a few offers but walked away at the end. Was that me or the boat - beginning to think its me. I have moved countries, changed careers , bought and sold houses, but recently I have suffered what can only be described as anxiety as a result of my inability to make a cohesive decision about my personal life. Bizarre.

The other thing I increasingly don't like is the lack of intimacy  Yip I miss holding someones hand, stroking a woman's hair, being next to someone I care about when I am out and about, sharing meals, laughing at stupid jokes and yes sex.  Social isolation is difficult - ever been to a Barnes and Noble recently and see all the single people wandering around. Apparently the thing to do is to go shopping at a store at certain times when its haunted by the 'singlies'.....Nah not me. But they say that single people die younger , so there must be something to it.

So where am I now? Well I have a tendency ( there is an understatement !!) to over analyse and over think everything. Another Tip. DON'T SELF ANALYSE  Its doomed to leave you feeling like you are a complete shit head, will do no good whatsoever and will utterly fail if its aim is to make you feel better. However besides looking for a new job/means of making a living - hopefully with an International Medical company - fingers xed, I have reached the inevitable conclusion that I really don't want to get any older as a single man. The trick is how to avoid the inevitable of ending up in a retiree trailer park in Florida playing dominoes and walking a poodle. Ah the Internet strikes again. Seriously have you ever tried to use the dating sites? Its a quagmire of sad lying individuals desperately hiding their past while hoping for the impossible. Sure there are success stories, they are the ones on TV , but for the rest of us mere mortals it makes the dream of finding a partner seem even more elusive then it did before. I think Ill rely on blind luck and just do stuff that puts me in touch with other people. Which reminds me here is a plug for 'MEETUP', yes its an on-line resource, but its simply a way of tagging up with people with similar interests, like riding the Harley. Seriously if you are at a loose end give it a try.

I have no idea what the future holds. I was going to say God only knows, but as an agnostic is seems a bit , well ... desperate. I think that I will eventually stumble, quite by accident into somebody who - as the saying goes - will rock my world. It may be in the south pacific and I sail around the world, or in IHOP over a plate of pancakes in Miami, or someone from my past - who knows. I look forward to seeing what happens, where I end up ( my days of practicing clinical medicine in the US are thankfully over) , what I end up doing and having a life with someone who wants an adventure. You gotta have faith. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

stop start , stop start

You would think that spending $ is easy. Oddly enough its harder than it appears, especially when - if you are a bit like me - it doesn't came as naturally as say saving , or treating someone else. There is something a bit self defeating about the idea of splurging when your instincts are well diametrically opposed.

The aim of my wallet lightening exercise is to buy a boat, a big stonking sailboat. Well ok not a BIG boat but  something that I can go around the Caribbean on. Doesn't have to be an aircraft carrier, but it needs to be at least sturdy. So size matters less than how it performs . Ha where have heard that one before. With that in mind I have recently looked at a lot of boats and even made a few offers. Sailors are romantics at heart, often more 'in love' with their boats than their better half's. As a result they have a slightly absurd view of the worth of their pride and joy , far in excess of what - especially in today's economy - its actually worth in pure dollars and cents.

I also have felt perhaps, an urgency to crack on with it and buy a boat. I have talked about this for ,well, far too long. The lst boat I owned outright was about 7 years ago, a nice Catalina 30, which I sailed around Galveston Bay ( yes of Glenn Campbell fame) for a year before someone offered me more money than I paid for it.  Well boats are always for sale and so I said , 'write me a check'. I found myself boat less and thinking about the next one. What followed was a succession of failed attempts at a 'Career' and equal failure to grasp the nettle of repeat boat ownership. Its amazing how time flies by .

So the hunt is back on and truthfully I'm not getting very far. I face the perennial dilemma of go small OR go big . There are times when the answer is 'seriously dude size does matter' but in the sailing world it isn't that simple. Sure size has its benefits but it also has its drawbacks in the boat world. Size increases complications and costs. I don't particularly like complexity in boats, and prefer the mantra of 'keep it simple'. 

So a decent sized boat , sturdy, and not overly complex. Ya wouda think its easy to find. Nope it isn't, and perhaps I'm being too picky. They say never fall in love with a house, car or for that matter boat that you want to buy, and I agree with the sentiment. But you do have to on some level actually like the boat you are looking at. Mmmmm....... not so far.

So the search continues, but not just for a big lump of fiberglass with a diesel engine and an aluminum stick pointing to the sky, but also perhaps for meaning in the whole  exercise.  It really shouldn't be that difficult, and I think that I tend to over think it, and everything else for that matter. So I'm going to focus on keeping it simple, not just in the boat but in life. Onward.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cross roads

Well life as always gets more interesting with the day. Having jumped of the rat race train I find myself with the opportunity to - at least temporarily - with the option of jumping right back on board.

In many respects it seems the simplest thing to do. Follow through with this opportunity, as a Primary Care Doc with the Military as a civilian. Or, instead pursue a permanent change in life as I had intended. To that end I am also looking into working with an international medical company called ISOS. I have been in contact with them intermittently over the years and recently re-established contact. After a false start I have begun to 'find' the right people. It sounds obvious I know,  but I have learned that with any new venture good contacts are everything. To that end I also re-joined Linkedin and established a profile. So organised  :-)

The challenge is knowing what way I want to live my life. I realize that sounds terribly obvious but it isn't. I have craved security - financial - for many years, and I am now in the position that I have no debts and quite a bit saved up. But that also now presents possibilities. The 'sensible' thing I guess, would be to buy a home, settle into a job with a good health and retirement plan and work away until  I am 66 or so to collect Social Security and Medicare.

It sounds like waiting for death, if you ask me. Wait until I'm 66 ? , given my family history of Dementia, ill likely not know who I am and will be sitting in a home drooling down my shirt not too long after.

So what are the options? Well every time I read a blog about people chucking it in to experience the world, by boat, car, bicycle, whatever, I think THAT'S WHAT I SHOULD DO. So I have been looking again at buying a sailboat and working part-time with ISOS as a locum tenens in far flung places, to pay the bills. And I wouldn't have to do too much of that either, just a few months a year. I can see myself in the Bahamas or the Caribbean or even further afield , anchored out and enjoying the passage of time.

 Life is too bloody short and I'm 54 this year. That's right fifty bloody four. Its unnerving and somewhat unsettling to know that in less than 7 years ( a lucky number for me being born on the 7th of the 7th) I'll be 60. What the heck if I'm broke then, I can always go back to work as a Family Doc ( if such a thing exists in the US System by then) and work for a few years before 'official' retirement.

Its a cliche that 'life is short' but its easy to forget it and wake up one day wondering where it went. As Alan Whicker used to say 'life is not a dress rehearsal'. All I need now is to find someone who fancies an adventure. Bring it on.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Time and tide waits for no man

We all go thru periods in life when not a lot makes sense. Frankly - as the 3 readers of this blog will happily testify -  the last few years have added to my sense of mild confusion and bewilderment at my inability to make cohesive sense of my life. I have reached the inevitable conclusion that basically it was full of baloney and merely served to do little more than pay bills and keep a roof over my head. Friggin heck surely there is more to it than that.

Well I decided to try to analyse myself and figure out how I got here. Seriously , DO NOT DO THIS. The truth is we get were we are because of ourselves. Oh sure, we can all make excuses and I am a past master of the , "Yes of course I said/did/thought that, but what I meant ....." Yeah  sure!!

I am where I am because - in the immortal words of DelBoy - "I'm a plonker" Yes it isn't easy to accept that you have been a bit of an idiot, made some horrendous decisions and largely are the architect of your own demise or if you are lucky, a success. That's not to say that life has been an unmitigated failure. I have 4 degrees and lots of letters after my name. BA MBChB MRCGP MPH MSc . Impressed eh. Well to tell you the truth I'm not all that sure that it was worth the effort, or the cost. When I think of the things I like to do , basically make break and fix stuff, being a Dr doesn't quite fit the mold.  I am  perfectly happy fixing my Harley whether it needs it or not, or taking apart a broken computer to allegedly repair it, or making a roof rack for my Kayaks ($10 in wood and works a treat - eat your hear out) But as a physician the only time I have really enjoyed the job is working in Public Health with the uninsured. Not the way to financial success !! When I look back at my career ( Ok stop laughing) it has had fits and starts and never really got very far, all largely because of my own ineptitude. To think I once worked at NASA. Oh Boy. There have been highlights however. I have an amazing daughter ( Yes i know I said that toooo many times before - but its true) and if that is the highlight of my achievements its no bad thing. She is awesome. My relationship with my younger sister had stood the test of time and my Mom is a born  again Thespian. I have loved and lost - Yip entirely my own fault. As Einstein allegedly said "The Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results", boy was I dumb. How any of us survive the morass of a mess we sometimes make is beyond me.

So where to go from here. I have long harbored the notion of heading off to the Caribbean in a boat and well.... never coming back. What of love you say !! Indeed. Well that's were it gets a bit messy. Finding true love at all is almost impossible and the two women I have utterly loved sensibly left me for someone else. Finding someone to share you hopes dreams , have a similar outlook on life, well it's nigh near impossible. So at this point I think i'll stop looking and leave it to fate. If someone comes along who wants to sail away, well bloody fantastic. If not I have 2 choices, wait around for a miracle to happen, which being agnostic is highly unlikely, or just get on with it and hope that by doing it and trying to live the life I want.... well the right person will com along. Sounds like a plan if you ask me.

The end of times.

For anyone living in the USA the events of the past few days at Newtown Ct, have been sobering reminder of the fragility of life. I have no more answers than anyone else, suffice to say that I support the Presidents call that enough is enough. Too many children, teenagers and adults have died and die daily in the US at the hands of deranged individuals with s gun. I make no apologies for being an advocate of gun control. The second amendment says in its various forms:

As passed by the Congress:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed
What it means is open to interpretation. In 2008 and 2012  the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individuals right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. It doesn't say that anyone should be able to buy an automatic assault rifle with 30 round magazines.

I hope that wherever we go from here its at least in a direction that prevents where possible a recurrence of another tragedy.  To many children have died.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Leaving is such sweet sorrow

I am 3 days away from leaving Virginia and back (perhaps temporarily) to Florida. In life we all make mistakes that we learn to regret. Last year I had two solid job offers, one in Tampa as a Flight Doc and one in VA for the US Army working at the Worrior Clinic. My heart said stay in Fl and take the job in Tampa. my head said Virginia. I usually go with my gut and this move has not turned out well. Lesson learned. I now face a relatively uncertain future, although as a Family Dr I have no difficulty in obtaining work. But more importantly it also respesents the end of a delusion. I had in the deepest recesses of my mind , hoped for a change in my personal life with the job in VA. Another lesson learned. Several years ago my very wise Sister advised me to do whatever I wanted in life and if someone wanted you back, they would find a way to tell you. Oh such good advice that not only only did I ignore, but I threw away a great job and my lifestyle in the process.

So it's back to Florida. I'm not entirely sure what I will do , buy a sailboat perhaps, spend time travelling and working internationally, and hopefully meeting someone to share it all with. I am 53 years old, and never in my wildest dreams thought that my life would be so unsettled and uncertain at this age. I had come to initially accept then embrace the idea of starting another family. But frankly I don't see it happening now, and that may be for the best.  So no more planning, no more worrying about what may happen, and certainly no more fretting about the past, for as we all know time waits for no-one, and the best laid plans............

Thursday, September 13, 2012

if you cant take a joke you shouldnt have joined

Earlier this year I moved to VA from FL. At the time I was open minded about how long for, and frankly was a little concerned about the job !! Unfortunatly the 'job' I took has turned out to be a bit of a disaster and I have decided to head back south. If I am being honest I came here for all the wrong reasons, including a delusion that somehow I could reconnect with a life that has in reality come and gone. I was hanging onto a past that belongs there - in the past. But I also had hopes that the job - with the US Army - would be a good meaningful role to fill. Sadly the reality is often a dramatic kick in the butt. However it is never to late to recover from a mistake , the trick is to recognise it as such. So upward and onward and see where life takes me. Truthfully I really have no idea much less a plan. A little uncertainty lies ahead , but not necessarily a bad thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers day and daughters

I am blessed with a daughter I could not be more proud of nor could I love more. True we drive each other nuts at times, but I know that through it all our bond is unbreakable. We met when she was knee high to a grasshopper and have made it through good times and bad to my middle age (well ok slightly past middle age at 52) and to where she is a professional adult in her own right. One of these days when I am older our roles will reverse just as it has with me and my father. Laura is also a good daughter to her Mom, and mentor and Sister to her much younger siblings. All our lives are enriched and happier because of her. It's fathers day and I am blessed, and looking forward to many more.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

DC , to be or not to be

I moved finally to DC, well to Virginia to be exact. It's been a transition in many ways, some good some bad. The first thing I realized is that , yes, I actually miss Florida. Strange as it might seem swapping the beaches of Florida for the greater DC area is not the big adventure I had hoped. When we leave somewhere , as I have done several times, we leave a place, people, a life, for better or worse. I think moving to the big city as it where at my age , a mere 52, was perhaps the opposite to what I should have done. However it also brings clarity. I have messed around the edges for some time with a dramatic change in life to include 6 months sailing, and traveling with 6 months working. And yes I can afford it. The good fortune is that as a physician I can make more than enough by working 6 months to live comfortably for another 6 months. Sounds like a plan as the saying goes. So by the end of the year I will be quitting and moving back south. Not to the same place but to a life where I call the shots. I already have a boat in mind that will readily take me around the Carribbean for 6 months a year, and I'll start to make serious enquiries in a few months. All I need to do now is to meet someone to share the adventure with. You never know !!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


My Daughter Laura graduated from Queen's University Belfast in December with an MEd with Distinction.QUB
Her thesis was on "Education policy and the role of teachers, in societies transitioning from conflict to peace"
Very proud day for Me , her Grandmothers and of course Laura.