6 degrees of geographical separation 

All American medical conferences have routinely between 5 to 10000 registrants, in other words they are big! This “breakthrough” event was small , I would hazard a guess at about 1500 neurologists. On every table at which I sat, the conversation would immediately or within minutes, rapidly open with a passing query as to from whence one came. “Oh I am in Philadelphia, County Clinton, east side”. The other responded that he had recently moved down south from Alaska to New Mexico, County Cibola, west side. 

Now the USA covers an area of 9 million square kilometres and has a population of 435 million. It is a remarkable fact that into which each and every conversation I eavesdropped, not one of the attendees did not immediately give the nonchalant impression that each, to within a bald eagles pin feather, knew precisely where the other lived as they forked food to mouth. 

“Oh yah” each says in a way that reminds me of laconic Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson in that memorable Cohn brothers movie Fargo. Turns out that each had either been born in the others current town or attended the local kindergarten or went there over more than 25 years to spend every Thanksgiving with their Ma and Pa or did a year of their training at the city hospital in 1995.

This compares to my response if I attend an Epilepsy Congress in Adelaide ( local) and a colleague shares his present address as Clovelly Park in the southern city of Onkaparinga. 


Upon my return will install a similar billboard at the intersection of Grand Junction Road and Main North Road 

Brain Screening can help you think clearly

Bulk billing with Dignity

Norton Synapse Institute

The Naive American – an oxymoron?

From afar the daily news of deadly gun massacres, the impending Trump presidential ascendency, paints the USA as a confusing, frightening cauldron of reactionary discontent. Yet from my first step on American soil I am amazed at the open, friendly welcoming citizens. They are to a man and woman – genuine! “You’re welcome” they respond to my “thank you” and I actually believe they mean it! 

I ordered for “starters” at dinner last night the Purple Kale, pine nuts, raisins and Arizona goats cheese salad with a quince aioli dressing! My attentive waiter, Brian responded with a somewhat unsettling instantaneous, ecstatic affirmation of my request, so effusive, that I reasoned that I must have been the first person to order this wondrous salad which had been added to the menu 4 months ago at the beginning of autumn and neglected by every uneducated, unadventurous diner till this obviously cultured antipodean gourmet descended upon the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Restaurant on January 13th 2017. It apparently was their autumn signature salad. Again I actually believe he was genuine in his praise of my choice compared to the mostly superficial response “excellent choice” by his Australian counterparts.

Super size me is an American expression and the starter size salad set before me, was sufficient to satiate the entire table of 8 morbidly obese Americans seated at the adjacent table. For one fleeting moment I considered that the serve size of my Purple Kale signature salad was a consequence of the possibility that I was the lone order for the evening, and that the kitchen was faced with the prospect of a rather large barrel of wilting Kale lettuce by midnight. The Arizona goats cheese of course would be all the better for another 24 hours of maturing. I dismissed this as an unedifying if not unpalatable thought.

The other slightly unsettling aspect to my dining experience was that having done justice to the salad, Brian returned seeking my mains order and understandably I guess with breathless anticipation assumed I would opt for the Cheeks of Arizona Prairie Bison poached in elderberry juice with roasted cactus pine needles. I had to politely decline and he became as crestfallen as the Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoon.

Finally it was brought home to me as I dined in the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass restaurant, that Americans have a 2 step approach to eating: cut and dice with knife and fork then drop the knife and use the fork to “spoon ” food towards the mouth. I felt on principle I would continue to eat with both knife and fork as my dear mother demanded all those years ago holding the knife as it SHOULD be held ( never like a proletarian pencil – a solecism that invoked the feather duster across the knuckles).

 To a man I was convinced that every diner lay down their fork and gazed at me as I demonstrated my dexterity and were in awe of my manifestly amazing fine motor skills. 

Mr and Mrs Schaefer of Schwarzwald 

The Hotel Schwarzwald

This hotel is remarkable on many levels. It is almost impossible to know where to begin. The hostlier is Herr Schafer. As an adolescent at the end of the war, he witnessed British soldiers dancing- not in the streets but what I guess we would call Ballroom Dancing in the clubs of Berlin. He was mesmerised by the fluid graceful movements of the couples , so at odds with the stiff precise routines of a German dance! He promptly enrolled in a summer dance academy in London over the next three years. 

Somewhere along the way he met his German Wife – his partner in life and dance! He hosted a national TV programme on Ballroom Dancing for many years. 

He took up teaching and in 1964 built the hotel with the aim of setting up a dance academy with live in accommodation. He rose up the ranks of professional dance teachers and was admitted as a Fellow of the Academy of International Dance Teachers! 

His hotel and dance studio situated in the Schwarzwald became just as famous as a stopping point on the walking trails and he then added to his CV by his active participation in the regions tourist organisation. 

I think the best way to indicate this man’ achievements, are by photos and the fact that on his 80th birthday he received a personal greeting from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel! He and his wife are so unassuming!

whilst I abhor senseless killing, I offered to take a pictute of his hunting trophies. From the 1960’s – deer!



Max the Red Deer Bull in s reserve that Herr Schafer has adopted almost like a pet and which he takes all the walkers to see!


Some pictures along the trail day 3 and 24 km 

A Book is Born

I belong to the “slide night” generation, having been subjected to these events in childhood, the consequence of having a father who enjoy photography. Not surprisingly I followed in his footsteps. My first trip overseas at the end of my fifth year in medicine was to Nepal. In Singapore I purchased a relatively expensive SLR Pentax camera. Over the next 15 to 20 years I accumulated a cupboard of Kodachrome slides. In the three months that I worked at a mission hospital in Kathmandu I wrote a diary in fact it was the beginning of a travel blog before travel blogs were invented! Those of you who have been intermittently reading this web-based travel blog realise that I enjoy creating and I think have a modicum of talent, in such writing. So it was a few weeks ago that I purchased an expensive Epson professional photocopier which had the ability to copy and archive Kodachrome slides. I have now dictated the typewritten diary which I turned into a bound book at the end of my university course and now plan to “publish” it in a more modern and user-friendly version To whet your appetite I post below two or three of the slides which I took and have modified in terms of size to incorporate them into my pending publication. My stay in Kathmandu was divided into working in the hospital and finally for the last month I trekked to Everest base camp and then returned, to enjoy after a month without washing, a beautiful warm shower. The pictures explain it all.

I am listening to a young Nepalese man complain of chest pain. Many were convinced they had TB and not without reason!

I am listening to a young Nepalese man complain of chest pain. Many were convinced they had TB and not without reason!


The summit from the Based Camp at Kalapatar.

Everest : The summit from the Based Camp at Kalapatar.


Some say this is more majestic than Everest.

Amadablam Some say this is more majestic than Everest.


First cycle is a hot shower with soap and srub

First cycle is a hot shower with soap and srub


Shower

Then a rinse cycle in COLD water, enough to make everything shrink.

London – St Pancras Station

In retrospect a conference on the rather specific subject of Status epilepsy (in other words a seizure which persists and does not spontaneously abort) lasting 3 whole days, was not surprisingly, confusing and far too esoteric. It was for the most part very research based with lots of complex slides showing the histology of various brain cells from slaughtered rats or cats. There was much talk on nerve cell channels involving sodium, chloride and calcium.  Again there were multiple mind numbing histological slides of nerve cells. The only fascinating aspect for me, is  that on this occasion, the sacrificial beast apparently was a wombat, specifically the nerve cells and synapses of the wombat epididymus. ( part of one’s testicle) . If only someone could inform these scientists in their ivory towers, that there woud be much less flak from the anti animal vivsectionists if they were to switch to possums.

The Imperial College is an University complex in Kensington and is surrounded by imposing buildings housing museums of every sort. There is a Royal College of Music behind the Royal Albert Hall. The College of Music has a Museum of Musical Instruments. To my grief it was closed for Easter! I was dumbstruck as Easter had passed a week ago. I am far too British to argue or question this explanation and meekly left. 
There is a Royal Academy of Music as well with a Museum and it is open! I looked up their syllabus and to my delight found that I could enroll in “period historical instruments” (the Recorder). As well I could have also taken lessons in the SACKBUT! It has a certain appeal. The head teacher is one Margaret Faultless. So I decided to set out via St Pancras Station, to visit the Academy Museum.
The St Pancras Station has a very special place in my distant memory as it was how I entered London for the very first time, more than 30 years ago. I had, on the first attempt, successfully passed Basic Physician training exams. Some may scoff that it was easier in those days, well I hastened to state that it was not! Dare I say it but the clincal exam at least was much more demanding. Anyway this is a good subject for debate upon my return. 
Be that as it may, I took a year off, what is now called a ‘gap year’ and travelled Europe. I left Sydney and flew to Nepal, India and thence to London. For Nepal it was my third visit, the outcome of an affair of the heart, worthy of another chapter of the book of my life. 
So I was about 26 and I suspect rather hippy in appearance with the mandatory Tibetian jacket and rather longish hair. I was mortified when I was pulled over at Heathrow on my arrival and subjected to a very thorough search of luggage, I recall they squeezed my toothpaste. My body was left ‘intact’, nothing squeezed or penetrated thankfully. What made it all the more unfathomable was that then in the 1970s we, Australia, were in the Commonwealth and so Aussies were privileged to enter Great Britain via the GREEN lane, nothing RED about this young man. It was definitely not British to be cut out from the flock like this as far as I was concerned.
So I took that train from the airport and it arrived at St Pancras Station. A beautiful edifice that reminds me of some of the unique buildings hidden in the hotch potch that is Hindley Street, Adelaide, although 10 times bigger. Hence I revisited this architectural wonder, now a National Trust Heritage site. My very first night was spent in a sort of back packers appartment very near the station. I am sure it no longer exists as the station is overshadowed by modern tall buildings.
Serveral photographs of the timeless facade and building that is St Pancras Station, London, the entry point for my first trip to London all those years ago.