That my MRCP was followed almost immediately by ten days of annual leave was more down to circumstance than to choice. It turned out to be circumstance of the happiest kind. By the time I left work, two Friday evenings ago, two and a half hours late, I was nursing a splitting headache that I had just about convinced myself was a subdural haematoma (having whacked myself on the head with the car boot on Wednesday night, as you do) and by half past nine I was fast asleep (reasoning that by morning my subdural haematoma would either have got better or killed me, also as you do).
By lunchtime the next day, I felt like a human again. Apparently all I’d really needed was a solid twelve hours of unconsciousness with no alarm clock at the end of it.
I have been nowhere really in the last ten days. I’ve had my holiday here in Glasgow, rebalanced my equilibrium and remembered who I am outside of endless multiple choice questions, sorted out a few bits of my life, spent so much time cuddling the cats that they’ve begun to ask when they’re getting their house back, and altogether had rather a lovely time of it. Indeed, when I turned up on Saturday evening to the last night of the Giffnock Theatre Players’ production of Terence Rattigan’s Cause Célèbre (good play, excellently done) and happened across some friends in the bar, I was informed that I looked more relaxed than I have in months.
The excursion out to Giffnock was my second trip to the theatre of the week. The first had taken me all the way to the East, and, afterwards, left me meandering in a trance back to Waverley, dazed and gobsmacked and thankful that I’m not as a rule the mascara wearing type. I’d spent the early part of the weeks stalking the Twitter feed of Edinburgh Theatres for returns and found myself sitting in the third row of the stalls, spellbound and sobbing. I really cannot say enough good things about War Horse, but at the same time I really don’t want to say anything about it at all — I went in with only a very vague idea of the story, not knowing how it would end but knowing enough about it to have some idea of how I thought it might end, and, for two days, having avoided reviews the way normal people avoid syphilis. It is a remarkable thing, and do go, if you’re lucky enough to be able to get tickets, go and see it. Go, unprepared (for you will be anyway) and unwarned (if you can) and armed with tissues (lots of tissues).
A significant chunk of last week was spent on my sofa deep in CJ Sansom’s novel Dominion. Now, I have never read the Shardlake series that Sansom is best known for and I picked this up a couple of months ago in Waitrose, where I had gone ostensibly to buy milk, because I thought it looked intriguing. The prologue opens in the Cabinet Room on 9 May 1940. Neville Chamberlain has called together his Cabinet after the crushing defeat of the British military in Norway by the German forces. The subject up for discussion in Chamberlain’s proposed resignation from the office of Prime Minister. In our universe, that meeting ended with Winston Churchill taking up the office. In the universe weaved with devastating plausibility by Sansom, Churchill bows to Lord Halifax and from there we skip forward to 1952 and to a Britain that has been much changed by that one moment in history. I’m not quite finished with it yet. This is a great doorstop of a book with a lot of brilliantly done world-building, and it’s well worth the read.
I’ve also made a start on Aaron Sorkin’s new series The Newsroom. It’s not new, not at all, having premiered on US television in 2012, but it airs on Sky Atlantic in the UK and so for me it was watching the pilot with friends on New Year’s Day and then straight to the DVDs. I’ve taken the first season slowly, very slowly, so slowly that I’ve been impressed as hell at my own restraint. There are only ten episodes in Season 1, and Season 2 is not yet available on DVD. I rationed. I should admit right now that I come to this as a biased pair of eyes. I cut my political teeth on The West Wing and I consider it the single best piece of television there has ever been and possibly ever will be. I would watch paint dry if Aaron Sorkin wrote a script for it. This show is what Leo McGarry and Isaac Jaffee before him meant when they talked about surrounding yourself with smart people who disagree with you. I defy people not to catch their breath in the last fifteen minutes of the fourth episode, when… well, you’ll see, but for me that was a moment when what had already been great television suddenly upped its game to 110%.
It was only with the greatest effort that I resisted spending the whole week on the sofa. Annual leave in January in Scotland is what sofas and fires were invented for. In the end, I got myself out for my first runs and my first swim of the year. It still feels a lot like I’m dragging a millstone around by my legs, but that run there was a week ago and it has been getting steadily easier. I’d neglected these things — unnecessarily, I think, and at the expense of making me significantly grumpier — while I huffed and puffed over my exam. I’m back, and planning to stay back whether I have to take the exam again or not. I entered the ballot for the Great North Run at the beginning of the month, and in a week or so I’ll find out whether I’ve been successful. I’m planning for a half marathon in the autumn one way or another and I’m plotting further ahead, too, for the spring of next year and a long-cherished ambition.
There has been the cooking of real food and the building of new bookshelves and did I mention the cats? And, for a short blissful week, the doing of it all with no niggling guilt that I really ought to be studying.
Today, I went back to work. And despite my eleventh day off being considerably more fraught with both planned stress (job interview) and unplanned stress (the kind that requires a roadside breakdown service, although thankfully not en route to the job interview) than I might have liked, I’ve returned refreshed and raring to go and all the better for having been gone for a little while.