Monday, 29 July 2013


I was at work, trying to access the electronic medical record system, but had changed my password recently, but couldn’t remember what I’d changed it to. The nurse sitting next to me started shouting out some suggestions: “PENIS! VAGINA! COCK! PUSSY!!”

I turned to her and said calmly: “You’re single, aren’t you?”

She was speechless.

“I thought so.”

How is everyone?

Now, I wasn’t trying to make her feel bad, but I was just picking up on some desperation that I my self was very familiar with in my younger years. Thankfully, due to ‘the force’ I’ve long since moved on from that phase. Better late than never.

I remember at school Richard telling me “It’s alright for you, Victor, you’ve got these bulging muscles- you’re in there already” it never quite worked out that way, though. I weigh about 10kg less now than my rugby-playing weight, but I do infinitely better with girls because I dress well and am not afraid to express my personality. That will help you more than any amount of musculature ever could.

When I went to Dubai last year to visit my friend Yousouf, we went out clubbing with one of his friends who was a professional bodybuilder. 120kg of pure, albeit drug-assisted, muscle.

There was 120kg of loneliness happening that night.

The stereotype doesn’t usually bear out in real life. I’m in a much better place, now. The search continues.

There has been some turbulence at work, as I haven’t been doing that well due to some personal issues and simply being fatigued from studying so hard, meaning that I’ve been clinging to my music as my main source of redemption, although I did manage to escape to the NZ salsa congress last month, which was awesome. It was so good to see my dancing friends again, and it was actually only the second time I’ve done any salsa this year, because of work. I really needed that outlet.

One thing I found with moving countries is that making friends as an adult is surprisingly much harder than making friends as a child at school, and it gets harder as you get older, with people settling down in relationships and having children, and subsequently vanishing off the radar. At my current hospital, everyone there is constantly busy with exams and other academia, as well as having lots of patients to see. The result is, you feel alone when you’re at home studying, and you feel even more alone when you’re at work because you’re surrounded by people, but you don’t really know anyone.

Producing my EP was an interesting time, however. I was supposed to be presenting my research project at a conference in March, but one of the collaborators made a critical data error, meaning I couldn’t, so I took my music to the recording studio, where I met Sean, the producer I told you about. I think that part of the reason the CD turned out as well as it did was that Sean and I are both pretty laid back people, and we got on really, really well: he really respects the fact that I want my songs to tell my story, and I really respect the fact that he’s an amazing guitarist with more songwriting experience than me. About ¾ of the times he made a suggestion, I’d agree that it would be an improvement. The remaining ¼ didn’t result in any arguments, or even awkwardness. He and his wife came over for dinner soon after, and we all had a great time. We still catch up, and are looking forward to producing the next 5 songs.

I still went to the conference despite not making the presentation. There was a dinner on the Tuesday night, and I was by myself, and so asked to join a half empty table. The other doctors on the table were very friendly and welcoming, and I had a nice talk with them. It turned out that they were mostly from New Zealand. One of them was from Wellington. I told him that I used to work in Wellington. There were a lot of medical bigwigs at the conference, but I just had the overwhelming feeling that all of this just wasn’t really me. He shared the same feeling.

Me: I love seeing patients and making them feel better: that’s why I became a doctor, and that’s all I really want to do in medicine. When I’m not at work, I like doing fun, creative things like salsa.

Him: I dance salsa, too.

Me: really?? Have you been to Jambalaya (New Zealands biggest world music and dance festival, with salsa as its focus)?

Him: of course. Every year since 2005.

Me: me too! Although I missed the salsa congress last year because I couldn’t get time off work, and I’ve been studying for exams. I haven’t really done much dancing at all, so I’ve been doing some singing, as it’s simply less time consuming.

Him: do you write your own songs?

Me: yes- I started guitar lessons last year, and I’m actually recording an EP at the moment- I’m going back to the recording studio tomorrow.

Him: I write songs, too!

I told him of my salsa solo at the congress in 2009- you may remember that that style of salsa is traditionally performed topless. Salsa dancers loved it, but when people at my current hospital found out about it, nobody said anything to me directly, but I started hearing background whisperings of how unethical it is for a doctor to be ‘flaunting himself’ in such a way online. I was initially quite upset by that lack of understanding, and took the video down. A week later, I changed my mind and put it back up, but with an annotation explaining the traditions of the dance, basically telling those people to go f##k themselves. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

It turns out that he’d done similar salsa solo performances, and it caused him even greater problems within medicine, such that he actually had to change his speciality.

We just stared at each other.

Me: did you ever get the feeling that you just didn’t belong in a place?

Him: a lot of creative medics feel the same way. Even if you spend the majority of your time working, the fact that you’re expressive in any way just doesn’t sit right with a lot of people in medicine.

Me: I’m so glad to hear you say that. I thought it was just me.

Him: no- it’s not unheard of. I’m trying to change that.

His name was Bishan, and as well as being a great guy, he is actually quite a visionary with his music, poetry and medical education, in particular, encouraging doctors to be more human. His music is a little more abstract than mine- being about peace and love in a humanitarian sense, while my songs are about love in a romantic sense, but we both like each others music:

It’s actually surprisingly rare for me to make medical friends. Since leaving university, I’ve made many acquaintances, but not many friends.

Actual friends.

People that I can phone and just talk to without them thinking that you want something from them, or are just wasting their time.

In the 12months since the X-Factor disaster (watch this space, by the way), although work has predominated, I’ve produced an EP that I’m helplessly in love with, and made 2 genuine friends. It’s been tough, but I wouldn’t change it, now.

However, as much as I love my music, any thoughts of being a full time musical performer have to be put on hold at least for now. In 3 months, although virtually everybody who hears my songs likes them:

CDs sold: 10.

ITunes downloads: 8.

Apple gives you the postcode of everyone who buys your songs, and so I actually know everyone who’s bought them. I never did this for the money, but it is a harsh reality check as to how good you have to be and what you have to do to be successful in entertainment.

Bishan shared a joke with me: who puts $5000 worth of equipment into a $500 car for a $50 job?

A musician.

Sad, but true.

Until the next time.