Hard Time In A Bitter Winter

Hard Time In  A Bitter Winter

In the previous blog I touched upon my pursuit of the primary FRCS examination and my first failure. The next examination was 5 months later at Glasgow. I seriously thought about my accommodation in the coming winter months in Scotland. I was aware that going south to London would be much more expensive than in Scotland. Experience taught me that the known devil is better than the unknown one. 

After the departure of Dr.Setty and Dr.Sivaraman in early December 1981, I continued staying in the Rosslyn Private Hotel. I also noticed the other two paying guests had left the hotel for celebrating Christmas with their family. My gut feeling was that Rosslyn would undercut the room rent substantially as getting something is better than nothing. I was right, she allowed me to stay there for the next five months for the price of five weeks. She demanded cheques for the next five months in advance. 

Rosslyn was a seasoned business woman, who stopped employing the maid and serving breakfast. Since I was the only resident, she turned off heating for the whole hotel , except her room heating. When I mentioned to her that the room was cold,  her stupid theory was that the oven and cooking heat would heat up my room, which was just above the kitchen. But the reality was that being in my room was  like being in a fridge. I had no room to complain as the rent was ridiculously low. To survive, I started putting on the black thick woollen coat, all the time including when lying down to sleep.  To my relief there was running hot water! 

The condition of my room forced me to be out until 8pm. I go to the library  and used to read news paper and my primary FRCS subjects.  My taste buds atrophied as I was mostly consuming tinned sardines, mackerel,eggs, baked beans and bread. There was a kettle to boil water to make coffee and boil eggs which I improvised to heat cold sandwiches. Once a day I used to go to the Glasgow Western Infirmary canteen to enjoy a hot square meal. I enrolled with Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons accredited primary FRCS course, which would be starting from 02/01/1982.

 From time to time I used to chat with Rosslyn, which was indispensable to oil my verbal skills in an almost secluded environment.  Once she unfolded with emotion about her initial courtship with her late husband and how her husband died of lung cancer. She portrayed him to be a philanthropic Labour Party Councillor, but he was smoking cigarettes like a chimney. She too asked about my large family, and she regretted for  not having a single child. She had a sneaking disdain for Indian culture, poverty and deprivation in India. One thing common with me and her was  that we both went to  the Catholic church.  Christmas was gloomy an dull without any usual illumination and crib. On the Christmas day, both of us went together to a nearby Catholic church. 

As I did not have a fixed abode, I was keeping my  green suitcase with personal belongings inside the car boot. I did not bother to carry the heavy suitcase upstairs where my room was located.  I treated my car as my second home, where I could get warmth.  In the suit case, among other clothes, I kept my wife’s Singer sewing machine. On 6th January 1982, as usual I went to the anatomy theatre of Glasgow university and parked the car on the road side. Once the day’s dissection and lectures were finished, I bought usual provision  from a supermarket. When I opened the car boot  to keep the provisions, I was shocked to see the empty boot without the suitcase. Immediately I went to a nearby phone booth and dialled police on 999 and reported the crime.  

Unlike today, the police were very prompt, and a police constable visited me at Rosslyn Hotel, took my statement and registered a case. Next day, while I was dissecting in the anatomy theatre, the senior lecturer, called my name loudly and asked me to see a waiting police constable. Others in the hall wondered what had happened to me. The constable informed me that the police recovered a suitcase matching my description on the greens by the road. As he had asked, I went to Glasgow police station and I collected the suitcase. To my disgust, the car thief had removed the the Singer sewing machine. I had bought this sewing machine from Edinburgh in late 1979, when I had been there for the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) examination. 

Other students attending the course were mainly from Arab countries like Syria, Iraq, Morocco and Libya. Most of them were less sociable, and spoke with a rough accent,  as such, the social life was very abysmal.To make matters worse, that year was one of the coldest, the temperature plunged to minus 27 C on 10th January 1982 in Glasgow. It was a nightmare to go to my refrigerator like room. To  keep the room slightly more warm with dispersing steam,  I used to boil water in the kettle. During that month once my car stalled when I stopped at red signal.  I kept turning the car key to  start the engine, which flooded the carburettor with liquid petrol. My stranded car  blocked the traffic, and a police constable helped me  to push it to the pavement. 

Next month (February 1982) I needed to go to Home Office in Croydon, London to get my resident visa extended. I asked Rosslyn, whether she required anything from London. Rosslyn sarcastically remarked “Yes I do, can you bring a handsome Englishman for me?” I went to and fro London by night bus service to save staying in London. Life dragged for another two months and Rosslyn informed me that Dr.Setty, Dr.Sivaraman and Dr.Khamar were  again booked for the next examination scheduled in late April 1982. I remember, how anxious Rosslyn was those days as she was waiting at the bay window for the appearance of a taxi. Even she checked the arrival times of trains from south since she was desperately short of guests.  

This time in addition to the above regulars, there were other two  doctors too to reside in Rosslyn hotel. As soon as Dr.Setty and Dr. Sivaraman saw me, they were surprised what had happen to me, because I had lost a lot of weight. Yes they were right, when I looked at my earlier entry in the diary I was 84Kg, but at that time I weighed only 76kg. I did not elaborate, but they worked out the basic problem. Their arrival earmarked with the turning on the heating and the maid making the usual bland breakfast. Next morning when I met Dr.Setty, he made jeering comment “Don’t worry George, for all these sufferings you would get her inheritance as she had no heir”. I got exasperated, but I did not retort to him. 

Again we all  appeared for the primary FRCS examination, again dejavo, all got thick envelopes.  I realised studying in solitude in a harsh settings would not help. Luckily I got a job in accident and  emergency department of Vale of Leven Hospital, Alexandria, a picturesque area of  Scotland with Loch Lomond.  I got doctor’s quarters, and therefore I brought my wife and daughter  from India.Since then I continued working in other hospitals and in 1984, I passed the primary FRCS examination.

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Dr.C.J.George FRCS

This blog is about my experience as a doctor working in various countries in different clinical set up. This experience spans through 45 years, in which I acquired a lot of favourable contacts and unfavourable encounters. I shall dig deep into them and make it interesting to the readers. Unlike others in the profession, I worked as a community medical officer in a remote areas, prison medical officer, benefit service medical officer, in cardiac surgery in prestigious institutions and as a private doctor. I was managing my own businesses, and real estate in three continents. I hope the information I impart will be valuable to the like minded readers.

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