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Posts by Beth Routledge

Something’s Coming

Pipes! Drums! The King of Glory! Pipes!

I was as giddy as a schoolgirl during the Palm Sunday procession this morning. The congregation had been promised something special. It was to be not donkey nor unicorn nor panda, not fireworks nor explosions nor the borrowing of the great thurible from Santiago de Compostella (I confess to being somewhat disappointed at the latter), but instead the wonderful wonderful lads from Clanadonia piping and drumming the holy rabble in procession.

This video of the procession was taken by the Provost. I am the one right behind the pipers, going, “AMAZING! AMAZING! THIS IS JUST LIKE MAGIC!”


For the fact of Holy Week is not long-ago legend or glorious myth, but living history and living our story.

As the Lord rode into Jerusalem on his donkey two thousand years ago so did he today enter in glory into all places in all corners of the earth, and in this place, in our city, how else would a holy rabble in Glasgow greet their Messiah but with our music and our joy?

The same rabble that on Thursday…

But no.

We aren’t there yet.

The thing about this week is that one doesn’t ever know quite what will happen. Just like the disciples, we aren’t sure what’s coming. There will be joy, of course, and feasting, oh, yes, for Passover is coming, and then, well, something big, people are uneasy and there are rumblings, but, really, anything might happen. For who is that man and what has he come here to do? A promise is made at St Mary’s Cathedral every year to those who keep the Triduum with us, those who live the experiences of Thursday and Friday and Saturday and Sunday. A promise is made that if you do that, you will never be the same again. I was told that the first year I kept it and truer words have never been spoken.

This is our story. This is our song.

Hosanna to the Son of David.

And now something’s coming.

And whatever that something is, we will never be the same again.

Death Watch

The second of my reflections for Beauty from Chaos, the Lent blog for the Scottish Episcopal Church, has been posted.

Death Watch

It’s a grim time, a difficult time, a time when our vulnerabilities are stripped bare and we have what seems like an uncomfortably long time to meditate and regret and wish that we might have done things differently. Perhaps we feel a bit guilty, as the season stretches on with what seems like no end in sight, for sneaking a look at our watches.

Ah, Patients

Clinic Feedback #1

“Great. So, just remember to make that appointment for six months time before you leave, okay?”

“Yes, thank you so much.” [stops at door, turns back] “Oh, my God, you’re so nice.”


Clinic Feedback #2

“Hello, my name is…”

“Well, you’re not Mr. [Male First Name] [Chinese Surname].”

Adios, Surgery

The cruelest paradox of being a junior doctor is that if you should ever be fortunate enough to get all the way through the day with an air of competence and pleasantness and not-entirely-losing-your-mind-ness, it will be for one of two reasons:

1) It is a sign of the end of the world,


2) It is changeover next Wednesday.

It was recently brought to my attention that this business of chopping and changing jobs like a toddler with ADHD is not the way of the normal world. I made a remark about the night I’d just had in surgical receiving and I was asked what happened to oncology. And there I stood, befuddled and sleep-deprived, explaining that nothing happened, it’s not that I’ve been getting fired or quitting, thank you very much, but this is, and, oh, yes, I know it sounds crazy, the way that medical training is supposed to happen.

It gives you just enough time to get good at your job, and then the rug is snatched from under you and it’s back to, “I can’t find the venflons/gas syringes/arrest trolley/toilets,” and, “Excuse me, Doctor, can you prescribe analgesia?”/”I can; also, not Doctor, just Beth” and, “What do you mean I’m on call for cardiology?”

Honestly: I thought I’d be thrilled to see the back of this job. I am not a surgeon by temperament or by skillset or even by being terribly interested. It was around this time last year that FY2 jobs were chosen, and when I saw that I’d landed myself with another four months of general surgery I made my Not Impressed Face. A whole career of digging through a lot of mush in different shades of pinkish and yellowish with a patient who for the most important part of our interaction is out cold? (For a given and highly controlled value of ‘out cold’ that doesn’t have me reaching for the emergency buzzer.) It’s not my thing.

And that’s all still true.

But surgical receiving?

That, I’ve loved.

I haven’t even minded that my receiving shifts last upwards of 13 hours. It’s gone fast. Mostly. Except at 10am in the middle of the post-take ward round when consultants who haven’t been awake all night start rhapsodizing about the history of the Glasgow Coma Score. (True story.)

The diagnostic challenge, especially when things are a bit weird. The getting results back and being right, or the getting results back and being laughably wrong and then learning something from that. The coming up with my own management plans and having them actually make a difference, even if the only thing on it that actually made a difference was the morphine. The turning into a slow but reasonably proficient sewer. The having of FY1s, which has not quite stopped being strange but has been an education and has made me realize that I am maybe wearing my grown-up pants more than I think. The slightly bug-eyed (on one of them I was heard to declare that there could be no more patients because between the six of us who were in the doctors’ office in A&E we had treated every single person in Glasgow) but genuine camaraderie of receiving nights. The satisfaction of going off to handover secure and only a little bit smug in the knowledge that the decks have been cleared for the incoming team.

7.56am. The nineteenth patient of nineteen seen and sorted out. Boom.

I may or may not have done a little jig in the lift on my way to the ward round, that morning.

I’ve got five more days of being the surgical SHO, but this weekend was my last time in surgical receiving. I felt competent, I felt on top of things, and at no point did I feel that I might be losing my mind (and it was absolutely not that I had an easy weekend by any definition). I took an FY1 and a bloods folder and did a whole evening post-take ward round on my own. I not only knew where to find the toilets, I directed relatives to them! Contrast this to my first day of receiving in December when the registrar appeared to do the evening ward round and found me swearing at my pager, turning in circles on the spot, and thinking that if the apocalypse came at least it might mean that I wouldn’t have to figure out the inner workings of the admissions board.

At some stage over the last four months, I’ve learned how to do my job.

So, of course, next Wednesday, I have to go and learn how to do a new one.

Because as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be forever, world without end.


This year, I’m once again writing for Beauty from Chaos, the Lent blog for the Scottish Episcopal Church. We are ten days into Lent and there is lot of very worthwhile reading there already with a lot more still to come.

The first of my three posts went up today:


You will know too that at least I come by it honestly.

Of my love for the sparkle, for the shine, for the holy razzmatazz of the way I choose to worship and all the ephemera that comes with it.

Design Group for the Discussion of Same Sex Relationships

Today was the Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway.

I chose not to seek a point of clarification at Synod today because I’d realised that I was so angry that had I got my hands on a microphone at that particular moment I would have done something that I have never done, ever, not in any church, not at an AGM or a Vestry or at General Synod. At that moment, I did not trust myself to speak without losing my temper. The Bishop, the Chair, the whole of Synod, all the invited guests, and the members of the Design Group for the Discussion of Same-Sex Relationships. They would all have got shouted at and I don’t think I could have brought myself to entirely regret it later.

The point that I wanted to clarify was in any case clarified by someone else, but I’ll come to that.

Yes, I am banging on about same-sex relationships again. Oh, believe me, I am as bored of talking about it as I know you are of hearing me talk about it, but, given that I participated in a small group conversation today in which LGBT people were referred to as those people, I trust you’ll see why I don’t consider my job done.

Today, we have been given an update from the Design Group for the Discussion of Same-Sex Relationships. I mentioned this process last June when it was imposed on a dissenting General Synod, and the Provost wrote before Synod last year about the information we were given on the process – information, I might add, that has never been made publicly available, to the point that there were people at Diocesan Synod for whom today was the first time they knew that such a process had been taking place. I was invited in my capacity as one of the convenors of Changing Attitude Scotland to meet with the Design Group late last year, and I declined to do so on the grounds that we do not believe it wise to collude with or endorse a process that we don’t believe is fit for purpose. In declining that invitation, I outlined at some length what our issues with the process were and I informed both the Design Group and the Standing Committee of General Synod of the alternative mechanism that I propose for seeking resolution to the issue of same-sex marriage within the Church. The proposition, which I do not feel is a terribly radical one, is that a resolution is sought through the usual channels of Synod, which would lead to a three year discussion with an end in sight and a framework for getting there. I keep being accused of trying to rush the process. I presume you will forgive me for believing that three years has never by any definition constituted a rush.

In all of the correspondence I’ve had on this subject over the last eight or nine months, one of the things I’ve kept saying is that it isn’t my intention to undermine the work of the Design Group. I’d been told very little about the work that they had done, but I thought that if it were good then it could be used to bring about just such a motion as to lead to what I propose and I didn’t think it out of the realm of possibility that their work might start us off in facilitating just such a three year discussion process as I’ve described.

My view on that has changed somewhat today.

It is my opinion that not only the process which led to its formulation but the Design Group as a group is not fit for any purpose at all. It is my opinion that the existence of the design process and its imposition on General Synod last year is and has always been a stalling tactic. It is my opinion that the Design Group considers LGBT people to be Other. It is my opinion that this has not been and will not be a transparent process. It is my opinion that the Design Group is not a safe space for people who happen to be gay, and that furthermore both the Design Group itself and any space or conversation that it tries to facilitate will potentially be a dangerous space for people who happen to be gay.

I am tired of being talked about as if I am not there. I am tired of LGBT people being talked about as though we are not Christians, as though there are no LGBT people in our churches or in our rectories or on our Synods. I am angry that when these conversations take place, they are of a tone and with a presumption that a conversation about same-sex marriage is about Other People, that it is not about the marriages of people who are in the room, and that a conversation about gay bishops is about Other People, that it is not about the careers of people who are in the room. I am so tired of standing up just to remind them that I am not an abstract concept.

I believe that this is a process with no credibility and that if the Province continues to pursue something so deeply flawed and so very unsafe that that will raise questions about the credibility of the Church.

For consider this:

You cannot claim to be working to provide a safe space for conversation if you demonstrably have no understanding of what a safe space means to LGBT people.

So This Is What Normal People Do

As the surgical SHO, one of my jobs from time to time is to act as the receiving surgeon. On those weeks, I see all the patients who come into hospital with a potentially surgical problem and implement an initial plan, then I try to keep them straight both in my head and on my obsessive list so that I can present them to the consultant on the ward round and some actual decisions can be made. In the between times, I call my registrar a lot. One of us does that all day. One of us does it all night. Those are the weeks when I really don’t sit down much.


With a patient in ED, going through my usual list of “and now I’m going to ask a few general questions that might seem irrelevant but I ask everyone just to make sure I’ve not missed anything” questions:

ME: Any tummy upsets or problems with the bowels?


ME: Any trouble with the waterworks?

PATIENT: … well, not really, but … now that you come to mention it … there was a day last week when I went to the loo after work and I realised that it was the first time I’d been since I left the house in the morning … and that’s not normal, is it?

ME: Huh. Really?


In evening handover, with a very lovely and enthusiastic third year medical student who had asked where we might best be found when they came in the following day.

ME: It depends. At about what time are you going to come in?

STUDENT: I’m not sure. What time do you come in?

ME: I come in at eight. Don’t.

STUDENT: At eight o’clock in the morning?

ME: Yeah.

STUDENT: Have you been here since eight o’clock this morning?

ME: Um. Yes?

STUDENT: But… How?!

Dear England

It was with interest and a smidgen of what I recognised as hope that I watched some of the statements coming out of the General Synod of the Church of England earlier this week. From the Synod as a whole on the matter of bishops who happen to be women, from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the matter of the blessing of marriages between same-sex couples. It seemed, for a bright flare of a moment, that the Church of England might finally be nudging, slowly but inexorably, towards the advent of social change for which so many of us have longed for so long.

In the early hours of this morning, the House of Bishops of the Church of England released a pastoral guidance on same-sex relationships.

It says, among other things, that:

  • Issues In Human Sexuality is still a thing.
  • The Book of Common Prayer has scriptural authority.
  • The Church of England grudgingly acknowledges the existence of non-ordained LGB individuals who consider themselves to be gay and who reject the notion that this requires them to acquiesce to a life of celibacy. Grudgingly.
  • Individuals to whom the above applies are Other.
  • Two people of the same sex who have chosen to get married or who are planning their wedding cannot seek pastoral input or conversation from their priest without being required to be lectured at about their deviance from Church teaching.
  • Same-sex marriage is unwholesome and lacking in integrity.
  • An ordained person who is in a same-sex relationship cannot get married.
  • A person who is married to a person of the same sex cannot seek ordination.

And that:

  • The entire House of Bishops, all of them, which is fifty two people, agree that marriage is between a man and a woman.

This is a lie. It is a lie that by the very telling of it it shoots holes into what is left of the moral integrity of the Church. It is such a transparent lie that I’m moved to ask why the Church of England, which historically has admitted to the existence of shades that are neither black nor white, why divergence of opinion is allowed — encouraged, even — on every topic under the sun, but not on this one, on the matter of gay people and the kind of sex they may be having, the Bishops and the Church must speak with one voice. Why?

I was asked, prior to the publication of that pastoral guidance, to appear in my capacity as one of the convenors of Changing Attitude Scotland on the BBC in a debate about Christian unity, in light of disagreements around bishops who happen to be women, priests who happen to be gay, and marriages which happen to be between people of the same sex, and particularly in light of some of the things that were said at General Synod this week. I declined (and I’m far from the only one to have done so), principally because I don’t think it’s an appropriate conversation to be having in Scotland, where, because of the choices we have made and the issues that we have already resolved and the advantages we have by not being the established Church, that conversation would be a very different one, and also because I don’t presume to speak for the Church of England. Indeed, I consider it my great privilege, and, today, reading the deep and genuine pain that is evident all over my Twitter timeline, my great relief, that I am not a member of the Church of England.

If the invitation that I declined yesterday evening had been issued after the guidance from the House of Bishops had been published, it might have been that I’d have been tempted to accept it and to get very angry indeed, but that wouldn’t have made it the right or the appropriate thing to do. I do not speak for the Church of England.

None of this is to say that the Scottish Episcopal Church is perfect. I live in hope and perhaps a little bit in fantasy. But the battles that I’m steeling myself for in our Synod later this year are not the battles that are being fought by my friends to the south of the Wall.

I do not speak for the Church of England. I do not speak for the Scottish Episcopal Church, and, in this space, I do not speak even for Changing Attitude, but I do speak for myself and I suspect for others here too when I say to my LGBT friends and our LGBT allies to the south of the Wall that they are not alone, and that we share in their heartbreak and we extend to them our love and our communion.

(The full text of the guidance from the House of Bishops can be read on the Church of England website. Many thanks to Jeremy for suggesting inclusion of the link here.)

MRCP, Again

As some of you are already aware, this happened:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 20.10.31

You may recall that I described my sitting of Part 1 as not unlike being kicked in the head for six hours by the entire All-Blacks team. It went so badly that, if I had passed, I’d have presumed I was hallucinating and then I’d have been tempted to ask for a re-count. And if I had passed, it would have been wholly on luck and then I might always have felt that by not having to learn it again properly, I’d left great holes in my education — some holes are all right, I suppose, I wouldn’t have minded passing the biochemistry parts on luck, but for example, hearts: it turns out that I don’t really know much about those, and I should, really, because most people have got one.

This was predictable. This was so predictable that when it finally happened, I wasn’t even really terribly disappointed.

I’m dusting off my copy of Kalra and my subscription to Pastest. The next sitting is in May.


A Brave New World

This morning, I woke up in a country where I have the right, granted by my government and protected under the law, to ask someone to marry me. I know that that doesn’t sound like a big thing to a lot of you. But when I was growing up, I didn’t ever believe that that would be a reality in my lifetime — I might only be a wean, but remember that I did most of my growing up under Section 28 and that homosexuality had been decriminalised in Scotland only four years before I was born. It’s a huge thing. It’s no wonder I can’t shut up about it.

I was on a life support course yesterday and then I had a time-sensitive errand that I absolutely could not not run, and so it was that when the arguments were being summed up I was in a garage with Flo’s wife trying to find a feed that would play on an iPhone.

“Sorry,” we said to my (wonderful) car salesperson. “Sorry, we’re being very rude but they’re voting in the Scottish Parliament.”

“Is this the marriage law?” he asked.

I nodded.

My car salesperson is a straight-talking straight Glaswegian. There was a time when I would have avoided a conversation about LGBT politics for fear of the response I might get. The fact that I no longer avoid those conversations is a little bit because I’ve changed.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous, if you ask me,” he said.

And then Beanie flapped at me because they were voting and I abandoned all pretence at polite conversation, first while we watched the vote and the announcement that the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Act had passed at 105 votes for to 18 against(!) and then while we screamed and hugged and cried. In the middle of the garage.

“I’m sorry, I’m okay, I’m sorry about the crying.” I rambled, incoherently, in half-sentences that I couldn’t finish because I had to keep stopping so that I could stop myself from bursting into tears, trying to explain the significance of what just happened.

“You’re all right,” he said. “I was just saying, it’s absolutely ridiculous. I mean, what’s the difference? You should just be able to get married!”

That, right there, is how we’ve changed the world.