Archive for September, 2017


September 25, 2017

So I took a bit of a tumble when I went running on Friday evening. The funny thing was I was undecided about going for a run or taking the bike out for a spin. I opted for the run as I thought it would take less time.

I go running in a local park. I run on the paths, rather than the tarmac as it’s easier on the knees. Trouble was, several of the lights were out so, being a sensible sort of chap, I ran on the tarmac when I couldn’t see too clearly, and went back on to the paths when there was a light to guide my way.

I can only imagine I was dazzled by the sudden transition from near darkness to glaring halogen and tripped over something at the top of the steepest descent. This meant that, rather than doing a simple tumble, I managed to career halfway down the hill, gradually increasing my speed while surrendering more control. I finally crashed and rolled and came to a halt next to a couple who were making their way up the hill and who witnessed my entire spectacular descent. On one hand I was unlucky to land knee first on a sharp rock protruding out of the earth and came up with a deep gash that went down to the bone. On the other hand, it was quite fortunate that one half of the couple was a volunteer ambulance man and he called the emergency number for me to arrange for an ambulance to take me to hospital.

Being a Friday night, the emergency line suggested it would be faster if I took a taxi there myself but, since I was only expected a thirty minute run in the park just up the road from the house, I didn’t have my wallet. A quick call to the missus, and she was on her way to meet me, armed with wallet and some basic first aid supplies. Of course, I had chosen to fall at the furthest and highest point from the house, so that took a while. And then it started to rain.

Mr Ambulance man was nice enough to help me move to the shelter of a tree, and then made a very professional job of dressing the wound. He saw us into a taxi that he ordered for us, we persuaded him to take some money for beer, he persuaded the driver I wasn’t going to bleed on the upholstery and we were on our way to the hospital.

My previous late night visits to public hospitals in the US and UK have been interesting, so I was expecting the worst. But this was more like waiting in the bank to see a clerk. It was clean, brightly lighted, and everyone was speaking in lowered voices. Admittedly it was still quite early for a Friday, but nevertheless, it was remarkably calm.

I didn’t even have to wait very long. After an initial check-in process where they asked for my Norwegian ID number (which I couldn’t remember) and a brief glimpse at my knee (where they admired the dressing), I was moved to a second waiting room further inside the building which was as silent as a reading room. Even then I didn’t have to wait very long before a nurse and led me to a room where she removed the bandages and took a first look at the injury.

My arrival was timed with a shift change, so another nurse showed up and we went around the loop again, but soon after a spot of prodding inside the wound I got my first ride on a gurney as they took me off for an X-ray. Then it was time for a spot of anaesthetic and a good going over exposed areas with a toothbrush – apparently this is the best way to clean a wound and also happens to be a good way to test how effective the anaesthetic is before they start on stitching things up. I needed a couple of top ups before they had finished with the toothbrush and so I barely felt I thing when they pulled out the needle and thread.

Once they were done, they handed me a pair of crutches and I was done. Although I still had to stop by the pharmacy for the inevitable painkillers and antibiotics. Unfortunately, the anaesthetic wore off on the way back from pharmacy to A&E where I planned to get a taxi and I ended up leaning against a wall, propped up by the crutches and trying to fight back the wave of nausea flowing over me. Fortunately it started raining again at that point – the feeling of cold rain on face is a wonderful tonic and provided long enough relief for someone to fetch a wheelchair for me to tumble into.

The taxi driver seemed unconcerned about the possibility of bodily fluids leaking onto the leather upholstery and was similarly dismissive of the sharp turns and numerous speed bumps we encountered between hospital and home. Although he slowed down for the road works, I think it was because he was worried about his suspension rather than any concern for his passenger.

And then I was home, four hours after I set out for my quick jog.

Next time I’m going for a bike ride.




September 24, 2017

On Tuesday I took the sleeper train from Oslo to Bergen. It wasn’t the first time I had taken the train to Bergen, and it wasn’t the first time I had taken a sleeper train.

The first time was from London to Scotland. It was a long time ago and I’m a bit vague about the details. I think it was from King’s Cross to Aberdeen, and was a trip taken with my new PhD supervisor to visit a lab up there. I’d always fancied doing the sleeper to Scotland ever since I had done the overnight train in the other direction from Aberdeen to King’s Cross. I was eighteen and spent the night dozing off in a deserted carriage, waking at three in the morning to stick my head out the window to see the train pulling into York station.

I’m not sure what I expected, but my primary memory was it reeked of cigarette smoke from my chain smoking supervisor, it was too dark to see anything and I had to get up in the night to use the toilet and was on the top bunk. In the morning, breakfast for my boss consisted of lighting up the first fag of the day and heading off down the platform and I almost passed out before we reached the exit, necessitating a stop off at the station buffet for a round of soggy toast and overbrewed tea. I did pass out later that afternoon, but that was from boredom brought on by the two lab leaders chain smoking and discussing things of which I had little understanding and realised I cared about even less.

When I moved to China I came to rely on sleeper trains for long distance travel in the days before the high speed rail network was constructed. Leave Wuhan at 8pm and the train would gentle crawl its way to Beijing or the border with Hong Kong for a civilized 7am arrival. There were two classes of sleeper, hard and soft, a throwback to the days when they really didn’t have mattresses on the cheaper beds. Nowadays, the primary difference between soft and hard sleeper is that the hard sleeper has 6 beds / compartment whereas the soft only has four, and there is a door to the compartment. I initially thought the opportunity to close the door was an advantage, but after a couple of trips, realised that the soft sleepers were used by overweight business, often on their way home after a business dinner involving heavy drinking. Thus, when lights went out, the door was closed and they immediately passed out on their bed, filling the compartment with snoring, belching and bodily gases.

The hard sleepers also had more of a communal atmosphere, entire families or groups of friends travelling together. The unspoken rule is that everyone sits on the lowest berths until its time to sleep, so there would be three on either side and snacks and conversation. However, a lack of familiarity with foreigners often meant things would start out with me on one side and five people crammed together opposite me, but fellow travellers could generally be persuaded to rearrange themselves

I thought my sleeper days were done until I was in Europe and ended up travelling between two northern countries. I forget where we boarded, but we stumbled into our compartment to find two people already sleeping. Around 3am we stopped somewhere else, and two more people piled in to occupy the remaining beds. There was a lot of snoring, so at 6am I removed myself to the buffet car for breakfast.

Based on my previous experience, I wasn’t expecting too much from this trip to Bergen and was well chuffed to find we had our own compartment with washbasin, complimentary bottled water, hand towels and a chocolate on the pillow. There was an array of buttons to allow different levels of mood lighting and the possibility of illuminating the compartment from every possible angle. And there was even a restaurant car that stayed open the whole night for the peckish but wealthy.

The journey to Bergen is particularly picturesque at this time of year, with the leaves in full colour, but I was happy to fall asleep as the train was pulling out of the station. I was jolted awake by a couple of sharp turns but was only vaguely aware of the train gliding to a stop at various stations through the night. I was woken by the guard warning us of our imminent arrival in Bergen, and we rolled off the train and into the nearest café for coffee and croissants.

And in the evening we were back at the station and did it all over again in the opposite direction.