Monday, 22 November 2010


I’m not really sure where to begin in describing this amazing event, so I’ll begin with a big thanks to Michael Legge (@michaellegge) for organising it, and to all of the other people involved behind the scenes. All Day Edinburgh (@AllDayEdinburgh) was a 7 hour (more like 8 hours on the day) comedy gig which aimed to give people a taste of numerous acts who performed (or didn’t) at the Edinburgh fringe festival this year, all in aid of the charity Shelter.

I don’t often blog about shows/gigs because I have an appalling memory for such things, but through friends and tweets I think I can give a pretty good account of how it went. I will include some tweets sent at the time to give those that follow me on twitter more understanding of what really happened. Some descriptions of acts may be brief in order to avoid spoilers for future shows (or more likely because my memory is rubbish). Then you will all see how amazing it was and join me in hoping for another event next year.

It was held at The Phoenix on Cavendish Square in London, a regular host of comedy including Los Quattros Cvnts and London Comedy Improv (@LondonImprov). The pub has had a recent makeover and was an ideal place to hold the intimate marathon of comedy. The audience were eager to begin at just before 2pm, with some tech issues being resolved as they waited it started not long after…

20101121_007On my way to the venue at around lunchtime I read the following tweet…

michaellegge: I hate the homeless, all venues, comedians, comedy fans and the cold hollow sound of laughter.”


Our esteemed host Michael Legge welcomed us to the event and explained how he hated everyone (I think he was a little bit stressed), there is nothing more funny than Michael having a rant, and planning this event provided him with good ammunition. A delightful introduction to the day, taken in the spirit of humour it was meant.

20101121_002First up was Nick Helm, an act I had not had chance to see in Edinburgh this year. With his gruff voice he warmed up the audience well with his loud and shouty explanations of why he *loves being single (*this may have been a little sarcastic) interspersed with a couple of very funny songs, which we were encouraged to join in with and a some audience interaction involving fruit tins connected with a piece of string. He is certainly an act I won’t hesitate to see again.

Next up were An Hour of Telly Live, I’d heard a lot about Margaret Cabourn Smith (@MCabournSmith) and Zoe Gardner’s show but had not managed to fit them into my hectic Edinburgh schedule. They lived up to those expectations, showing us their versions of adverts (“it’s a tiny yoghurt”) the way they should be done and practicing well known acting techniques such as the use of “barbed comments”. “Your teeth are cunts!” still makes me giggle now. Their set ended with a West End themed sketch which was not only funny but revealed the power in Margaret’s brilliant voice.

The pace continued with Caroline Mabey (@mabeycakes) with her breakfast themed set, complete with various charts and skilled visual representations of the evilness of the meal. A unique delivery which was quirky and fun.

Following a brief interval we were treated to a brief version of Pointless Anger, Righteous Ire with the angry Michael Legge and Robin Ince. I saw this show twice in Edinburgh, no rant can ever be the same. They did not disappoint, *discussing sketch groups, small children and much more briefly than planned the (well known anger fuse) Daily Mail (*shouted furiously to each other and the audience).


nwoolhouseuk: Michael Legge and Robin Ince have just been very very angry. #ADE (I hurt from laughing)”

I really hope to see more Pointless Anger, Righteous Ire in the future.

Sara Pascoe (@sarapascoe) was up next, and although she did not perform her Edinburgh material, she did not disappoint. “Penis enlargement spam” we were bluntly told was the topic for the set, ending in Sara showing us her own version of graphic novel porn. I belly laughed throughout. (I won’t give too much away as it is new material, so she will be using it).

20101121_009The Trap are made up of Jeremy Limb (@jeremylimb), Dan Mersh (@danmersh) and Paul Litchfield (@MrPLitchfield) when you add Michael Legge to that mix, they make up Los Quattros Cvnts who perform (almost) monthly at The Phoenix. On this occasion we were treated to some material from The Trap, even though they have not been to Edinburgh for a number of years now. It was great to see some of their original material including the Alphabet Sketch, but the highlight of their set was The Palindromic Sketch blew me away, with all of the audience lulled into a false sense of disappointment as the two Neville’s performed outdated gags but then they really turn it around literally, doing it backwards and show the sketch for it’s true genius.

20101121_013Matt Ricardo was up next, and even though he forgot his balls and had to use apples (I know), he certainly demonstrated his juggling skills and technique. His banter with the crowd making up for any moments of error, ending with a rather spectacular display using cigar boxes, a comedy cigar and some “wine”.

I forget where the intervals were, but there were many, and between acts Michael continued to keep the energy in the room, even providing a prized bag of King of Everything badges for the raffle, which were gently being “warmed” in his trouser pocket for the lucky winner. Other prizes were donated by Adult Swim.

20101121_014Even though they had there own show to perform later in the day, we were lucky enough to be visited by The Horne Section. Alex Horne (@AlexHorne) is obviously the front man with 4 musicians, much of the short set being the introductions of his band and banter with the front row resulting in some hilarious improvisation of Bon Jovi songs. The set ended with The Horne Section’s dance to Beyonce’s Single Ladies.

20101121_018*Clears throat* I really like Pappys (@pappystweet) and have seen them several times… this time was not the same. Tom struggle to even find his way on stage and then chaos. It was funny chaos but for some reason they were unable to actually start their sketches, with Tom explaining the back stories while Matthew and Ben giggled and called each other names (sex addict) or told him to stop, with many tangents (Dogtanian being one) they finally performed the Musketeers sketch, all 1 minute of it! They managed to do the Working Lunch sketch with much less, but still some “explaining” from Tom and then finally ending on a song about modern electronic technology.

Pappystweet: RT @nwoolhouseuk The oddest @Pappystweet gig I’ve ever seen. #ADE (one of the oddest we’ve ever done #breakdown)”

One of the big surprises of the day was a performance from Chris Addison (@chrisaddison) who I had never seen live before. He was much more energetic and passionate than I had previously though, with a hilarious set about what “writes off” people in his eyes (I agree with him on all counts) including (of course) The Daily Mail, a certain type of footwear and some commonly used sayings. Followed with an eloquent and amusing anecdote about his home life, I was pleased to have finally seen him and am already planning to see him perform again.

20101121_022Storytellers was on before the next interval, introduced by Sarah Bennetto with her own anecdote involving an ex boyfriend, some spiderman pants and a box, despite the next story teller, waiting in the wings being her current boyfriend James Dadswell. James did something great with his time and told the story of when his material was stolen by a well known comedian, there was solidarity in the room with so many acts in the audience. (Later Paul Sinha even mentioned it in his blog). The final teller of tales was John Luke Roberts who kept it light hearted with short tales.

Dan Antopolski (@DanAntopolski) jovially talked us through his family’s genetic contribution to the human race, complete with pop up visuals. And then rapped about the delights of owning a domestic lazer (we all want one now).

20101121_026I saw Colin Hoult’s (@wheeliemancrow) amazing show in Edinburgh, for this set we saw one of his many characters, Andy Parker from Nottingham, he does stuff in Nottingham since he left the army, like drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and writing screenplays, which have to be heard to be believed (“Giggle giggle, giggle giggle”). His accent is spot on, as are his mannerisms for the character. I can’t give lots away as the show still has a run in February in London, which I urge you to see (tickets). He has a great talent for chatting to the audience in character during his shows and it was a little bit cold in the room for Andy/Colin’s attire, a fact which he commented on much to our amusement.

Although, it was a very long day, and this blog is also really long, the time flew buy with such great entertainment. Next up was Paul Sinha (@paulsinha) with his anecdotes of debating with the BNP on the radio and a cockney rhyming slang racist insult at a train station toilet. A tight set with lots of laughs from the audience.

Tony Law (@mrtonylaw) was new to me, and quite an experience, starting with googly eyes and persisting to enjoy himself as he told us about animal sounds and revolutions. I have no idea how to explain it, you definitely had to be there, and I’m glad I was.

20101121_029Tara Flynn (@TaraFlynn) delighted the audience with 4 of her songs from her Edinburgh show Big Noise. I was very grateful to get a chance to see it again (Confession – I did see it in Edinburgh, but that day unfortunately learned that too much afternoon drinking and a hot room make for poor concentration, and embarrassingly had to break out the energy drink, naughty naughty me, and such a shame to not give it my all – please learn from my stupid mistake). We saw Bjork Song, The Fog, 80s and Custard, with Tara showing her diverse styles of music, dance moves and comedy talent throughout. Loved every moment.

20101121_032Paul Litchfield who performed earlier in the day in The Trap, spoiled us with a performance of one of the characters from Los Quattros Cvnts, the author of a fusion of sci-fi and erotica, Sean Golsworthy. It never ceases to make me giggle in such an immature way as he reads the tales of sex robots. Go and see Los Quattros Cvnts at The Phoenix!

MCabournSmith: My favourite part of #ADE was when Sting turned up. (@mrjimBob)”

We were nearing the end of #ADE but the quality never dropped with an awesome performance from Jim Bob (@mrjimBob) formerly of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine fame. He was a little green around the gills having been thrown a surprise birthday party the night before, but as a true performer went on to impress the audience with Mrs Fucking MacMurphy, The Wheels on The Bus and the Carter USM song The Only Living Boy in New Cross.20101121_035

Kateweb: My favourite moment of #ADE was watching @turlygod and @michaellegge waltz to @mrjimBob’s Mrs Fucking MacMurphy. Lovely day – well done all.”

The yelps of excitement from “back stage” (behind a screen) revealed that Mr Legge was rather excited to see this particular performer, as did the above mentioned dancing. Much of the audience joined in singing the songs. A joy to see and one I will repeat on Wednesday when I go to see #Guttedfest with Jim Bob and The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra (details).

nwoolhouseuk: The Penny Dreadfuls headlining this shit (their words not mine) #ADE”

20101121_036I did see The Penny Dreadfuls (@dreadfuls) and was happy to see their sketches again, the creepy guy sketch is not one I recall from Edinburgh, made even more repulsive by the chewing of some newspaper balls which has been where the sun don’t shine. the sketch was giggly and a lot longer than anyone (including Penny Dreadfuls) thought it would be. Following this was the Sea skipper sketch and then the Twilight parody, again I cannot give it all away or it spoils it for others. I’ll just say they kept a now weary and a little bit drunk crowd still giggling.

A well deserved standing ovation was given to the embarrassed Michael Legge for his brilliant MCing and organisation of the event. Drinks, hellos and goodbyes followed (yes, more booze).

I suggest you follow @AllDayEdinburgh on twitter and hope that we are lucky enough (or that Michael forgets this year’s breakdown) to have another one next year.

(please feel free to tell me if any of this is wrong/spoilery too much/needs editing – as I said my memory is not great. Oh, and sorry for the crap quality photos, they are from my phone.)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Manners (Rant)

Today I feel ranty. What happened to people having manners? Yes, someone was rude to me today. Usually this does not bother me, but today it did. I won’t go into what exactly happened but it did get me thinking, so here we go with a ramble as my thoughts spill out.

In my job as a mental health nurse I do expect some rudeness, let’s face it many people who are acutely unwell with mental health problems are frightened or angry, they often don’t have the capacity for manners. This I can understand, it is not their fault, they are reacting to an extreme situation. Many do have manners, lots of patients say please and thank you, ring me to ask for favours and are generally pleasant to talk to. If I can I oblige, it is my job to accommodate when I can, and understand the difficulties people may face, and of course to listen. Sometimes I can say to someone “Don’t speak to me in that way” or even just “Say please” when it is appropriate. Mental health problems are not necessarily an excuse for bad manners. What I don’t understand is when people do have the capacity to be polite, I do help them and they are still rude to me. This can be patients, relatives or colleagues, over the years they have all to some extent irritated me in this way (thankfully not too often).

This has raised the question, is there some sort of scale between duty of care and desire for good manners (or just lack of rudeness)? I sort of know there is, I can’t expect someone who is really unwell to be polite all the time, that is elitist, there should not be an “us and them” culture between nurses and patients, there just needs to be understanding when appropriate. However, when someone is able to understand the consequences of their actions or behaviours then I and many ward areas do not tolerate abuse. And in my opinion, rightly so. After all I go to work to care for people not to face abuse or intimidation. I have unfortunately seen cases of verbal and physical abuse at work, sometimes the hard line is taken and patients are discharged or the police are called. Of course there has to be some weighing up of the risk to fellow inpatients and staff, and the risk to the patient in question if they are discharged. I can see how the police can struggle to take criminal charges to the extent they should, when many people within the legal system do not appear to understand when mental health problems do and do not impact on such decisions to be abusive. See, there are lines which should not be crossed but it is complicated. The same goes in dealing with patient’s relatives, I have to put myself in their place, how angry would I be? What is reasonable behaviour?

With colleagues it is a different matter, in general abuse is not tolerated. This doesn’t mean it is always reported. It is such serious action to take, a formal process (one which I have some experience of). It is not for the occasions when people are just rude, it is for the extreme. So how do we tackle general lack of manners? A simple example is that I run clinics, within which I schedule 1 hour for lunch, this is never an hour long break, NEVER (to be fair it should only be half an hour). Usually, a few morning patients are late, I have urgent phone calls to make, notes to catch up on and people who did not attend to contact, then the morning patients arrive early. The result is I often have 5 minutes for lunch in a very long and busy day. Again, I try to be understanding, there are problems with buses, some people think it helps to be early rather than late, some don’t mind waiting a few minutes (I do keep in mind that many of our patients are anxious about the appointment and the needle). It is when people are rude and demanding in such situations and think I am not entitled to my break, especially if colleagues do it. I addressed this with some staff who bring patients recently, thankfully they were understanding and didn’t realise how busy things can be (only seeing their part of the picture… amazing how often people do that isn’t it?). See, it is the small things that matter in such cases, a phone call to say you will be early or late, then you would be told what time afternoon clinic starts or when there are appointments free, and I get a 10 minute break… simple manners and we are all happier. Unfortunately not all of my patients who attend alone are able to have such forward thinking, so I still don’t get much of a break, this I don’t mind so much. (The above is not what happened today to annoy me, it was another matter entirely). This is just an example of when manners could help.

So when should I look after my own welfare? To have a break, some food, a drink (a wee)? To not be offended, shouted at? Or even to just be spoken to with some respect? (of course I demand I should not suffer any physical abuse, and would do all I could to prevent such situations and deal with them appropriately). But how much can people get away with? Where is the line? People are complicated. Mental health problems are complicated, as are their families and carers. Politics within teams and between teams of colleagues are also complex, when should we not ‘rock the boat’ or when should we ‘fight our corner’? The answer is, I don’t know. Today I was busy, felt stressed and did my best, I did not feel like my needs were being met to have some of the above privileges (are they privileges or rights?). But once the hectic day was over and I had chance to talk to colleagues I gained more understanding of the situation and felt a bit calmer about the whole thing, I gained some perspective. Sometimes you need time to do so before you react (I did keep my nerve at the time and remained polite).

So, please make an effort to be polite to people who help you in any way. In fact people in general. I don’t mean just nurses, but people who work in shops or restaurants, delivery men, anyone… my point is, please remember if they are helping you, they probably have helped a lot of other people that day, not all of them may have been nice to them. A please or thank you and a smile goes a long way, whether you feel like it or not it may be needed and appreciated.

Thanks for reading, any feedback is always appreciated either here or on twitter.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Mental Health Nursing - my ramble/perspective.

I admit it, I miss blogging, I like writing. This week I was struggling to think of a topic to ramble about so I asked on twitter, a couple of people said my job. But I don’t want to come across as pretentious, as I chose my career with its ups and downs, and I’m sure there are a lot of easier and harder jobs than mine, I am not looking for extra thanks or praise in any way for what I do. Oh, and if you didn’t know I am a mental health nurse.

I do feel the need after reading that last paragraph back to point out that “we” (meaning mental health nurses in general) don’t actually get as much thanks as you may expect. I see it all the time on general medical wards. But I understand that we are not always liked by our patients (especially those detained under the Mental Health Act meaning we restrict their activities) and often there is a huge sense of relief for people when they leave a mental health ward, they are not very happy places to be (I am aware hospital isn’t in general but you know what I mean here I’m sure). I assume (possibly wrongly, feel free to correct me) that it may also be due to the fact that hospital is a tiny part of the journey, people don’t usually leave “cured” there is a long way to go, sometimes they still do not have insight as to why the hospital stay was so necessary. Of course there are people who make remarkable steps whilst in hospital, and are often very grateful for the help they received, I thank those people (as I say, we don’t get it very often). Now I work in clinics (currently Clozapine and ECT) so I am a tiny part of people’s journey through mental health services. My team does get a few Xmas cards from patients, but we are a small piece of a big puzzle; our thanks is seeing people well and not in hospital anymore.

[Sorry for that digression but i had to get it off my chest]

As I pointed out at the beginning I am not meaning to be pretentious in any way. I know that even within mental health nursing people deal with the job in different ways. I must admit I have become a lot more cynical in the last 7 years, I try to make sure this doesn’t make me any less caring or empathetic with my patients. Unfortunately I have seen some nurses “burn out” in that way over the years. I personally believe this may be because some people just don’t switch off. I’m not saying it is always easy, but as in many jobs there needs to be a work-life balance. It saddens me to see some people who need the money working extra hours all the time and not truly switching off from the day’s events. I used to be guilty of it, often ringing work when I got home to tell them something I had forgot but thought it was important (it usually wasn’t and could have waited until the next day when I got back) or to check on a patient. I have been qualified long enough now to have a bit of a thicker skin. Oddly, I feel guilty about this sometimes. But it is needed, work has to stay at work. I have to try to remain detached from my patients (to a certain extent), even though I have known some of them for a few years. I have learnt to deal with this by trying to care about the job as a whole, rather than individuals. I have standards I work to, where patient care comes first and I try to change how I and my colleagues do things for the better. You can make changes within the healthcare system for the better, it is about sharing good practice and listening to patients (while understanding the budgetary constraints).

I guess this blog should be more light hearted than this. What do you want to know about mental health nursing? I will go through the top questions I am usually asked.

1. Is it a scary job?

- The short answer is most of the time, no. I’m not saying there aren’t scary moments on the wards, there are sometimes. But with the right training, a good team and adrenaline kicking in those moments usually pass without too much trauma. I can think of maybe a handful of times when I have felt really intimidated by a patient. I have never been seriously hurt at work, and injuries during restraint are rare for both patient and staff. Part of it, (for me) is that you have to build your own persona, my work persona is much braver than I am in the street and more assertive. At the end of the day, you are a part of a team. If a team works well together you can deal with anything. It does not “kick off” every day, there are really boring shifts like in any job, where nothing seems to happen.

2. What are patients like?

They are mostly like your friends and family, nice people who have become unwell. Just because someone has a mental health problem it does not mean their personality vanishes. Yes, when people are psychotic it can be hard to recognise the person you may have known before, but you have to remember that they are still in there. I laugh and joke with patients if I know them well enough. It depends how unwell they are, there are patients who you have to build trust with or may have thought disorder which makes conversation difficult. It doesn’t mean we don’t try. Every patient is different. It depends on which kind of mental illness they have, how ill they are and their underlying personality. You have to listen to what they want/need, whether it is to talk or be left alone, it is all about balance between what they want and what they need. Yes, there is sometimes odd behaviour, but there is also a lot of “normal” behaviour on a psychiatric ward, watching TV, playing games, having a chat. You can’t see everyone’s mental health problem from afar.

3. Are you psychoanalysing me?

NO! Firstly, I have not trained in psychoanalysis. Secondly, I am not a mind reader (psychics do not exist). I don’t want to know about all of your troubles (unless I ask, or you are my friend, even then sometimes I don’t want to know). It is my job to care for people, not my mission in life to care for everyone I meet. Just as a doctor at a party does not want to hear every medical complaint in the room, I don’t want to find out how scary you all are (joke). In reality, training to be a mental health nurse may make you more observant of behaviours, give you some insight into common behaviours and hopefully make you an empathetic listener. It does not make you everyone’s counsellor. Of course I talk to friends who have problems, they just need to realise I don’t have all the answers. It is much harder to offer that kind of advice to someone you know than to a stranger. Objectivity is often needed, this is difficult to achieve with people you feel close to.

Anymore questions?