The Student in the Attic

Well, that was general practice.

And that was fourth year.

The Borders were a worthwhile experience. I feel that I learned things — more than I would have elsewhere, maybe, because having only an attic to go home to I didn’t mind hanging around for late surgeries or going to see the minor injuries that turned up in the evenings from time to time. The people were all lovely, from the doctors to the admin staff to the people in the cottage hospital who looked after me. And having done all of my third year general practice in the East End of Glasgow, I think I enjoyed the contrast.

I haven’t come back from it thinking that I want to be a rural GP, though, or for that matter a rural anything. I’m not that girl.

The whole idea of the attic never really stopped being weird. Even a few of the hospital staff didn’t quite manage to wrap their heads around my existence, and you’d think after all these years that they would have been used to students sleeping in their attic.

The best story to illustrate this is from one of the nights when I had come back from a late surgery. I’d been living there for a wee while by that time and the room was strewn with the normal detritus of a person’s daily life: a mug on the nightstand, some books on a table, running shoes in the corner, an empty suitcase by the wardrobe, my mobile phone plugged into the wall, that sort of thing. On this particular evening, I was eating dinner and watching something on my laptop and generally minding my own business and, without any knock or any warning, the door started to open. I called out, like you do when a stranger opens your door without knocking. (This is all beginning to sound as though it belongs in a 1990s horror film, isn’t it?) The stranger shrieked and nearly dropped her plate.

“I didn’t know anyone was in here,” she said.

The stranger was a nurse who I’d not met before, so I introduced myself as The Medical Student In The Attic and apologised for having scared her. It struck me as a little like apologising to the people who bump into you on the street, but I do that too.

She held up my book and said, “I just came in to return this.” And: “Are you on call? I really didn’t know that anyone was in here. I didn’t have anything to read on my tea break, that’s all.”

Not able to decide whether to say that I wasn’t on call, because I don’t do that yet; or that that was perfectly okay, because people have been treating my bookshelves as a personal lending library since I was four years old; or ask how on Earth she’d thought that nobody was living there, because look at all the stuff; or just say that they really ought to put a lock on the student’s door… I was left blinking stupidly as she dropped the book on my chair and scuttled out of the room and back downstairs.

I’m looking forward to sleeping tonight without hearing a call buzzer go off every half hour or wondering who might pop into my room looking for the loft hatch. The luxury of it all.



  1. No. No lock.

    There was a security code that restricted access to the upstairs to staff members, so, perhaps oddly, I never felt unsafe leaving my belongings behind an unlocked door. I will be suggesting on my feedback form that they purchase one, though. It seems like a sensible and not at all difficult thing for them to do.

  2. HAH! That was called, “Oh, I knew someone LIVED here, but since they weren’t PRESENT, I figured I could scarper off with a book and bring it back on the sly…”


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