Conversion of British Soldier After Witnessing Catholic Mass on WW1 Battlefield

Read here the tale of a young Welsh artist who survived WW1, though he was brutalised by it.

Catholicism Pure & Simple

In two days time we shall be marking the moment in 1918 when the terrible fighting that cost the lives of millions in World War 1 came to an end. Amidst the most unimaginable suffering of trench warfare during WW1 men clung to their faith in God through the help of outstanding Catholic chaplains on both sides of the conflict. They gave heroic witness as they risked their own safety to bring comfort and the sacraments to the men of their afflicted regiments… and even beyond


Recognition for a Much-Neglected English Catholic Artist

Unlike Waugh, Greene, and Tolkien, David Jones is not a name cited by many Catholics interested in the Catholic literary renaissance of the twentieth century. It is a pity. Not only because of Jones’s literary and artistic triumphs of the middle part of that century but also because this multi-talented polymath…

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BB Returns

As I write this, it is 0330 GMT. I have just returned home from Israel after a 13 hour journey by coach, aeroplane, and coach. I am completely ‘wabbit’ (pronounced ‘wabbered’) which is Glasgow slang for exhausted. Nevertheless, my mind is fizzin’ with wondrous recollections about what I have experienced over the last nine days.

In brief, I have just gathered enough life experiences to bore all you readers rigid for months to come. You will be glad to hear that I am not going to dump all of them on you right now. Instead, let me offer you a picture that I took myself the other morning. Waking early I ventured out of the hostel to have a cigarette in the pre-dawn. I was a few miles west of Jerusalem. Silhouetted against the warming eastern horizon were the distant towers and tower cranes of the city. It was very chilly and the winds were near gale-force. I ran back inside to get warmer clothes and my camera then returned to a good vantage point. This is the best shot I took that morning:


Brother Burrito Takes A Break

This ultra brief post is to explain why there has been so little posted on this blog of late.

Since announcing my retirement from the NHS on September 11th, and following through with my letter of resignation and pension claim, I have just been very busy tying up loose ends and also dreaming hopefully of the future. I wish to retain my licence to practise medicine in the UK so I have had a few more hoops to jump through. The clinical work has also been heavy of late.

Between mid-January to mid February, I expect to hang up my clogs and become a pensioner, but I hope to return to work on a zero hours contract thereafter to help cover sick leave etc. I have many other plans to keep myself busy and produce a little extra income but at my own pace. This is how I see myself in six months:


The Higgs Bozo

After three months as a surgical houseman (FY1) for the ENT firm, I entered a completely novel environment, for me. My new boss was Mr Higgs, a general surgeon who also did urology. He was a superb surgeon: fast, decisive, and highly skilled.

Here is a video that portrays him somewhat: Mr Higgs was a Sir Lancelot Spratt sort of surgeon but a bit shorter and wearing tweeds and with a redder face. I am the hapless fellow who gives the wrong answer at the end (as portrayed by Dirk Bogarde).

Mr Higgs’ secretary was called Betty, and she remains the most nervous person I have ever met. Even at peace, her voice quivered, but in the presence of her master it quivered even to the max. Despite this nervous disposition, she adored Mr Higgs, whom she referred to titteringly as ‘H’. He refused to use new-fangled things like Dictaphones and so Betty had to follow him around everywhere and take down his every utterance in shorthand, to be typed up later.

In work he was a monster to be obeyed slavishly, but socially he was a genteel giant. When leisure permitted, he would take his junior staff off in his huge Jag’ to some expensive country eaterie and treat them to a slap-up feed and drinks galore. He had a generous soul.

He took a shine to me, perhaps because I was a bit of a hopeless case. My professional inadequacies were merely sighed at rather than bawled at. Sadly I caused him great distress on at least one occasion.

The patient required a LEFT orchidopexy. He had an undescended testicle that needed to be put into his scrotum before it became cancerous. Unfortunately, I consented him for a RIGHT orchidopexy because I was a completely incompetent doofus.

It was only after Mr Higgs made the opening incision in the wrong groin that I realised my awful mistake. “Mr Higgs”, I blubbered urgently, “I think you are operating on the wrong side!”

He stopped immediately and examined the patient’s scrotum. Indeed, the testicle in question was in the other groin. He then glowered at me with such ferocity that I wonder how I am still alive today.

After a few seconds consideration, Mr Higgs continued with the operation. Instead of opening the other groin, he managed to perform the correct operation successfully through the already open incision. Please don’t ask me how, I am only an anaesthetist..

As he delivered the last skin suture, he looked at me wearily and said: “I leave it to you to explain everything to the patient”.

What I had done, consenting a patient for surgery on the wrong side, would nowadays be termed a “Never Event”, the worst of medical sins. Fortunately, consent is now only taken from the patient by the surgeon who actually will perform the procedure, thus minimising the risk.

When I checked up on the patient the following day, he understandably wanted to know why his scar was on the wrong side.

With a lying wink, I told him that Mr Higgs liked to show off his surgical prowess occasionally. The patient, a young man, happily bought my explanation and went home, perhaps to dine out on the story for ages after.

In much later life, I met another surgeon who was just like Mr Higgs in temperament and outlook and surgical skills. He was known by his initials JLE

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

W. B. Yeats1865 – 1939

I know that I shall meet my fate

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate

Those that I guard I do not love;

My country is Kiltartan Cross,

My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,

No likely end could bring them loss

Or leave them happier than before.

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,

Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

I balanced all, brought all to mind,

The years to come seemed waste of breath,

A waste of breath the years behind

In balance with this life, this death.


Silent Cockpit

I recently had to raise my voice obnoxiously to quell the silly chatter in theatre at a critical moment. Better discipline would prevent this happening again.

Burrito's Stable

There is a discipline practised by those who fly aircraft, that I believe deserves to be more widely implemented, especially in critical care environments and perhaps throughout the NHS .

It is called “SILENT COCKPIT!”.

In an aviation environment, the saying of these words by ANY crew member signals that all chatter and distraction must cease immediately and everybody’s, attention must focus on the job in hand, for life is at great risk.

One of the great pleasures of working in a hospital environment is the great camaraderie enjoyed by all. There is great craic to be shared by those fighting a good fight together. The armed forces surely experience a similar thing.

Sometimes however, reality violently subverts the dolce vita.

From out of the dark without warning arises a threat to life or lives. The first to notice this may not be the leader, their second or third. It…

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Poor Boy

A sure sign you are getting older is how much time you spend reminiscing. “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be”, is an old quote, often rejoindered by  “but then it never was”.

I first found myself humming  and singing to myself tunes I used to love as a teen and tween just the other week. The tune that stayed with me the longest was “Poor Boy” by Supertramp, from their album “Crisis? What Crisis? (1975).

Here are the lyrics, which to me are clearly a simple love song. The video follows:

Can you believe me when I say, there’s nothing I like better,
Than just to sit here and talk with you.
Although I’ll rant and I’ll rave about one thing and another
The beauty of it is so pure to me, though,
I’m a poor boy,
I can still be happy,
As long as I can feel free.

So many people I know, get old way too early
(Well are you feelin’ kind of weary?)
Just to impress you with the money they’ve made
(You better, you better change your theory)
One drop of rain, they complain, it’s the same about the wage they’re earning.

Well, that is not the way I’m gonna be,
Don’t mind the rain, don’t mind snow, don’t mind nothin’
If I know,
You will be right here with me
“Well let’s say, don’t mind your point of view,
How can we all afford to live like you;
The simple life is simply not enough,
We have appearances we must keep up”.


-Poor Boy-
If that’s the way it’s gonna be
-Poor Boy-
It’s you for you and me for me
-Poor Boy-

I’ve tried all I can, understanding, all the fools and all their money,
When half of what they’ve got, you know they never will use,
Enough to get by, suits me fine, I don’t care if they think I’m funny.
I’m never gonna change my point of view,
Don’t mind the rain, don’t mind snow, don’t mind nothing, if I know
You will be right here with me, all the way.
Don’t mind the rain, don’t mind snow, don’t mind nothing if I know
You will be right here with me…


Winging It


These guys never wing it, especially if they are after your sandwich or bag of chips.

I refuse to belong to either the right or left wings of politics or anything else. For stable flight, both wings are needed, and any aeronaut, or seagull, will tell you that.

The job of politicians is to serve all those human beings who have placed all their trust in them. It is not their job to pursue some ideological crusade vicariously. SERVICE is their one and only job.

This post is no political manifesto. It is a simple statement of the principles which must underlie all matters pertaining to the running of a community, whether that be a neighbourhood, parish, town, county, or nation.


Once upon a time, everyone was a cave-person. Life was certainly more simple then. There were no mortgages, income tax, or bills to pay. Everyday life was almost fully consumed with providing the essentials of life for the very next day, and no further. Food, water, shelter, and care for children-the vectors of the race’s future were the only priorities. Medical care was very primitive, and life expectancy was rarely beyond the age of 40. Compared with today’s modern cushy lifestyles, it was a bit grim, but it was all they had. Amazingly enough, it must have been a successful way of life, because we are all here today as a testament to our forebears in the caves.


Wrong image: not forebears, not four bears, only two bears, duh!

“So how were all these people governed?” I hear the managers and politicians of today asking, in fear for their jobs. The simple answer is that they governed one another in a dynamically changing fashion. On Tuesday the tribe were all short of food, so the jocks would set out and bring home some mammoth for the bbq. On Wednesday, everyone fell ill and the natural healers amongst the tribe would sally forth and do what they could.

By Thursday evening, everyone’s sore guts would be getting better, but then everyone became very bored and twitchy.  Behold: the tribe’s jokers and artistes would come to the rescue. One stand-up cavemen may have stood up in front of the others and said something like this:

Some of my fellow tribes-people may think I am selfish and not compassionate, and very un-tribal,

–but that’s enough about them!

I can picture the tribe falling about laughing at the witticism.

In the background were the artistic sorts of cave-people who were busy besmirching the walls of the cave with natural pigments, for in those days, there was nothing unnatural, except laughter. They were trying to depict the rapidly evolving scene but probably failed to keep up. They could always manage a few still shots depicting this dramatic hunt or that, which would satisfy the jocks and everyone else.

At the end of the recreations, everyone would retire to their beds to sleep, except those who would tend the fire at the mouth of the cave which kept all the hostile beasties at bay.

And then there was evening and then there was morning, and the cycle resumed again.


Oh dear, I appear to have started another thread of thought, which must be continued eventually. Alas, in my dotage, I seem better equipped for wool-gathering than spinning and weaving. Please pray for me, Thank you.

My September 11th Moment

This morning, in a moment of leisure, and under no external pressure, I firmly decided that I must retire from the NHS, ASAP.

I decided to irrevocably change my world and that of all who depend on me, in a flash.

The whys in detail will follow, but uppermost are my regrets: I will most sorely miss the pointless yearly appraisals, and the five-yearly revalidations where the State decides whether I am fit to practise as a doctor or not, above the opinions of my patients.

I will also miss trying to practise artfully in a cash starved workplace that has been mismanaged almost to the level of one of those rich corpses that float in liquid nitrogen at great expense as they await some future cure.

In no way am I fleeing from all the wonderful and beautiful people I work with, for that would be betrayal pure and simple. Besides, some of them will care for me eventually, when I succumb to nature’s processes, and then I will surely rely on their goodwill.

Simply put, I wish to retire at the top of my game. A bit early perhaps, but we can survive financially. I look forward to spending more time with Mrs Burrito and our beloved son.

[No picture or video today]