Ironically it was on an intensive care ward round as a trainee physiotherapist that I first realised I wanted to be a doctor because I asked the person in charge of the trainees what the liver function tests were that the doctors were all talking about and this chap rather condescendingly said to me ‘don’t worry about that, that is for the doctors to know and I thought well fuck you I want to know and this chaps rather thoughtless condescension changed the course of my life irrevocably And it struck me that rather than rooting around in the library for the answer; the easiest way would be to train as a doctor. And so it was to Glasgow that I went; well I had not figured that in to the equation of learning about the liver function tests: I think if I had known that to study medicine it would necessitate me travelling and living in Glasgow I may have at least thought twice so off I went from a summer in leafy warm sunny Melbourne and it was very friendly and even quite civilised by Australian standards.
and off I went to a winter in Glasgow; well it could have been any season in Glasgow because it was guaranteed to be cold and wet and violent. The student digs were in the relative affluent area of Glasgow. If that is not too much of a contradiction in terms i.e. people generally did not look at you with their hair impossibly scraped forwards and flat with that disconcerting wet gelled look. through their drug addled haze and neither did they look at you as a s a potential cash cow; well at least the Glaswegians or wegies as they liked to be known as. At least they were inventive after-all they invented the Glasgow kiss (which was a head butt and also as they realised the proficiency of plastic surgery was such that their handiwork with their knives was being diminished and in response they took to putting a ten pence piece in between the blades so when they slashed a poor unsuspecting person so that that when the plastic surgeon was trying to sew up the wound the surgeon. would not have any skin to sew it on to and instead would have to sew the two edges of the wound together over the piece of thin skin that was left by the ten pence piece and thus also leaving a gratifyingly large scar
I chose Glasgow University to study medicine because a family friend of ours lived there. I was completely unprepared for what it would be like. ‘Glasgow, city of architecture!’ – you could hardly make out the buildings behind the rainclouds. Or from underneath the umbrellas
I thought right, I’d better sign up for some clubs – but they all seemed to be indoor ones – film club, board games. So I signed up for the only outdoor one I came across – windsurfing. Jesus. We had to chip the ice off our boards before we could start. .
Every raindrop made me homesick for Australia … Every Scot I met said to me, ‘Oh, you’re Ozzie – you must hate the English as much as we do.’ No, I didn’t hate anyone – I admired the scots. Us Ozzies we were brought up thinking we were tough but Christ, we had it easy- I mean the scots had their grim skies and cold, wet weather and curried chips and just chips – chips chips with everything and anything resembling food like matter or substance that could be put near a deep fat fryer then they did it I never thought that at a four-hundred-year old Uni, we’d be living in high-rise tenements.
Then I started to make friends in halls – there was a group of us, and some of us moved into a flat together in second year. Geordie John, long and lanky and chilled, a rock climber – in the evenings we’d come back to the flat to find him hanging from the architraves. Giles, a vet – we used to play a lot of tennis together at the courts across the road. Perhaps we could have become members some-how, it probably wouldn’t have cost much, but it was more fun to scramble over the fence. A bit of adrenaline to spice up the game.
And there was Liv, this funny little hobbitty creature with incredibly thick, completely ridiculous jerseys knitted by some South American tribe … floral or covered in llamas in violent colours – there was really no excuse for them, not even the bitter cold. One evening there were strange noises coming from under the sink in our flat and we opened the cupboard doors to find a cat who had got all the way inside the flat, into the cupboard under the sink, just to do a turd on one of these jerseys which liv had stored in the cupboard for some reason.. Cats aren’t my favourite animals, but at least this one had some taste or some degree of sartorial sensibilities.