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This is why I am self employed.

Thursday 19th December 2013

Just thought I'd share a strange story.  There's no moral, no punchline and it isn't particular amusing, just a strange thing that I experienced one day.

Some readers may already know, but I used to get myself in quite a lot of trouble by refusing to blindly accept things and also ask far too many questions. As a result my natural need to take a pragmatic approach to life used to get me into all sorts of bother when I worked at the hospital.

One afternoon, I was responsible for admitting to the unit the patients that were on the operations list the following day. Basically, the patients come in the day before so that all the routines can be fulfilled, the paperwork completed and medical observations performed and so on. The aim was that the following day the surgical lists would be assured to run smoothly and without hiccup.

For the patients arriving, all this can be quite boring as there is little for them to be doing apart from doing a lot of waiting.  And there is lots and lots of waiting.

On this particular afternoon, we only had one patient for admission and he was fortunate enough to have the 4 bedded bay to himself.

Now, each bed is numbered, and each patient is assigned a numbered bed.  This bed chart is completed and forward to various managers, one of whom being "the bed manager" who is responsible for overall bed allocations within the hospital.

So, sat with the patient by his bed as it starts to get dark outside, I am filling in his paperwork with him.  Switching on his bedside light so that I can see better, the light doesn't work.  The bulb has "blown."

Now, the procedures state that I must fill in a form for the "estates and maintenance" department.  This form is then countersigned by my manager and enters into the system.  Weeks later, someone appears with a bulb that doesn't fit and says he will be back later.  More weeks pass and eventually a man with a bulb appears on the ward but no one can remember where it is supposed to go because it was all so long ago and now the original paperwork has gone missing.

I decide against this nonsense and simply switch bulbs with the bed opposite. I intend to leave a note for the night staff so they can fill in the form, and thus the policies are fulfilled, and my patient can read his book in bed this evening.

But disaster happens.  I'm seen changing the bulbs by the unit's jobsworth.  She starts lecturing me about policy, job descriptions and health and safety and how I won't be "covered" if anything happened to me when I changed the bulb.  Apparently, I'm going to be "reported."

And that was when it happened.

She told me to switch the bulbs back "to the way they were before you messed with them."

I paused for a breath before saying that this was against policy because there were health and safety implications for messing with light bulbs and I'm not allowed to touch them. After all, this is what she has just lectured me about.

"Do as you are told!" she commanded.

"I am," I responded.

And she marched off, presumably to get reinforcements.

The patient attempted to offer a resolution. "Why don't I just switch to that bed over there?" as he picked up his stuff and move over.

But of course that bed didn't have a working bulb, because I'd just switched them.

"Just switch them back like she said," said the patient.

And, just as I was about to, you guess it, back came the jobsworth with her reinforcements and commanded that I cease and desist immediately and go and wait in the office.  

The patient was told that he could not switch beds because of the allocations had already been made, and he was ordered back to his original bed.  As he did this, she switched the bulbs back, so that he was back in his original bed with the broken bulb.

Order had been restored.

And there you have it. A random day in my life.

This is why I am self employed.

Add a comment | Posted by Andrew Austin at 10:42

The origins of 'Metaphors of Movement'

Tuesday 12th November 2013

I've made a 20 minute video on Metaphors of Movement (MoM), and the ideas behind it's creation.  For details of training in MoM, please see:

Add a comment | Posted by Andrew Austin at 08:33

Metaphors of Movement - now taught in UK, USA, Israel, Japan, Sweden, Holland and India. Details of upcoming courses:

Add a comment | Posted by Andrew Austin at 08:20

Cripple Sex

Tuesday 6th August 2013

Many years ago I worked briefly in a residential unit for severely physically challenged people. Now, I say “briefly” because my employment lasted exactly one day and 90 minutes. The first problem arose one day one from my candid conversations with a small group of 16-19 year old about how exactly sex is possible when one’s body is severely contorted with spasticity and lacking any overt conscious control.

Some people in such situations have a number of problems. One is that nurses and care staff rarely see it as part of their duty to assist their charges in having sexual intercourse with each other. Another problem is that a person with such severe disability may well have the same attraction strategy as anyone else – i.e. attraction to fit and able bodied people. Now, in terms of attraction and integrity, which self respecting cripple would knowingly date a person who is sexually attracted to, and aroused by, people with serious physical deformities? By the very nature of the problem, some cripples are destined to only ever date perverts.

These were the issues comically put to me by my teenage charges, and the conversation was interrupted by my boss who clearly wasn’t happy. Clearly, sexuality amongst these teenagers was a subject to be institutionally ignored or there’d be trouble. That was the first indicator that there was a problem. The second and biggest problem, or at least, the problem that was written down on my dismissal notice, occurred on the second morning around 7am when I found myself at variance with the manager over exactly what “residential unit” actually meant.

For all I know I might be a pedant over such semantics and be unaware of my own pedantry. So this is of course quite possible, but when I was told to enter a room at 7am, turf the “resident” out of bed and bath him whether he liked it or not, I found myself questioning a few things. After all, I was aware that some of the residents, including the one I was to turf out of bed, were up until about 2am watching all three of the Omen movies.

And today was Saturday.

You will do as you are told,” my manager barked. She was disturbingly good looking, blue eyed, blonde and about 4 years older than me. She pointed her finger at me and fixed her stare. The previous day, some of the resident cripples had told me, with much hushed mirth and laughter, of her nick-name. It was quite appropriate given her general demeanor, attitude and the place in which she was in charge.

Get on with your work.” She demanded. Now, personally, when I get up in the morning, I like to take my time. I usually begin with a cup of tea, catch up with the news headlines, another cup of tea in the bath and then onto breakfast. Apparently in this “residential” unit, things were quite different.

The finger continued to be pointed at me, and as I had a rudimentary understanding of Bateson’s work at this point I knew that “the pointed finger denotes the fist, but does not denote that which is denoted by the fist” - so I pointed both my forefingers and middle fingers back her as though they were pistols and grinned, saying, “Ha! Outgunned! Now whatcha gonna do, call the sheriff?”

Well of course, what she did was sack me on the spot. The reasons given on the paper work I received later were “inappropriate attitude”, “inappropriate conversations with residents” and “unwillingness to perform the required duties of the organization” which I guess in their own way were all quite accurate.

Before I left though, I did let slip to her what her nick name was. I had to. I’m just that kind of guy.

How weird it was though, when about four years later I found myself sat opposite her at the dining table of an Army friend’s wedding reception. Trapped for over an hour opposite someone nicknamed “Margaret Mengele” who, on sitting down next to her rather frightening looking husband, looks over to me and says, “Oh hi! You seem really familiar, where do I know you from?”

Oh happy days...    

1 Comment | Posted by Andrew Austin at 16:59

"If NLP is so good, why are so many trainers overweight?"

This sounds like a reasonable question, but.....

2 Comments | Posted by Andrew Austin at 15:38