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What am I looking forward to most this Christmas? Two words:

The Doctor

Oh yeah, and spending time with family and stuff… 😉

Well, my second experience with the NHS was hardly better than the first. I finally reached the point where I could no longer put off registering with my local GP. So on Monday morning I walked around the corner, went on into the surgery, and told the receptionist that I needed to get registered. She gave me a form to fill out, a vial for a urine sample, and a paper listing my appointment time as 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, the 12th of December.

And so this morning I filled out the form, and collected a sample, and I left work early to go get my health checked and get registered with a GP. I turned up just before 2:20, gave the receptionist (different one from Monday morning) my appointment sheet, and was sent to an upstairs waiting room which wasn’t so much a waiting room as a few chairs arranged in a small corridor near the lift. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited. For an hour and twenty minutes I waited. Finally a doctor who had gone past quite frequently while I was waiting asked who I was waiting for. When I told him, he said, “I think she left.” So he brought me back down to reception to try to figure out if the nurse I was meant to see was, in fact, gone for the day. “Oh yeah – she left a while ago,” confirmed the reception staff. Apparently, another woman who had an appointment for Friday at 2:20 had showed up and the nurse who was meant to see me saw her instead and, thinking she was done with her appointments for the afternoon, left to go home. Why the reception staff didn’t notice that the woman who was seen instead of me was there on the wrong day and why they didn’t put me in their calendaring system when I showed up are both beyond me. But the fact that I could sit there for almost an hour and a half without anyone realising that I had been forgotten doesn’t make me all that thrilled about being a regular patient there. Even more troubling was that only one of the four reception staff had any interest in apologising and taking any sort of responsibility. The attitudes of the other three made it quite clear that they thought it must be my fault because how could they possibly be in the wrong? For that matter, they didn’t even really seem to have the time of day to figure out what had gone wrong and, more importantly, how to remedy it. They were more interested in talking about their own aches and pains.

Funnily enough, while I had been waiting, I had perused the results of a patient survey that they had posted on a notice board in the waiting area. The doctors in the practice, the facilities, and the ease of scheduling appointments all got very complimentary remarks, and the greatest complaints were reserved for the reception staff. In the “what we’re doing about it” section, there were notes that they would have some in-service training for the reception staff. It seems that they either haven’t gotten around to it yet or it didn’t take.

After rescheduling for the Friday before Christmas, I went home and had a couple of hours to cool down (and finally have lunch) before James and I got the bus to Moorgate and walked over to All Hallows for their special Wednesdays on the Wall Advent/Christmas/Epiphany service. It was a lovely service which included meditations led by Malcolm Doney on some of the icons that are part of the just-ending Wallspace exhibit. (Sorry if you missed it. It was quite something!) Also as part of the service, Garth Hewitt read some words from Canon Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Christian who Garth had interviewed earlier this year when he was visiting Palestine. I transcribed that interview as part of the work that I’ve been doing for Amos Trust, and it was nice to be able to experience a little of the fruits of my labour! The visual focal point of that part of the service was the Walled Nativity. (Please do follow that link – and this one too – to find out about it if you’re not already familiar with the concept!)

After the service there was mulled wine and mince pie, and then the folks who were still there gathered around the piano to sing some more Christmas carols. The acoustics in the church were just fantastic, there were some very talented singers involved, and all in all it was just brimming with loveliness.

The previous night had held plenty of loveliness of another kind: we went to the Royal Albert Hall to see Crowded House with Duke Special opening and ended up in a backstage dressing room afterward hanging out with many friends – old and dear ones and lovely new ones including Pete (aka Duke Special) & his wife Heather, Paul (aka “Paul Pilot”) & Rachel Wilkinson, Ben Castle, Beth Rowley & her brother John, Matt Hales from Aqualung, Jayne McConkey (a surprise visitor from Belfast), and Jude Adam who is one of the loveliest people on the planet and if you don’t know her, well, you’re missing out.

And the Christmas loveliness is really just begun. Lots of work parties, family gatherings, carol services, etc. yet to come. Two weeks from today, we’re off to the States for a visit. It’s almost too much loveliness to bear.