Archive for Dezember, 2013

A great night at ‚Die Blogger 2013‘

A fun evening of voting, tweeting and making a few new friends in the blogging community at my first blogging event, ‚Die Blogger 2013‘. Facts&Flowers was soundly beaten by the worthy winner ‚Demenz für Änfänger‘ (Dementia for Beginners). A beautifully written blog exploring the experiences of author Zora de Brunner with her grandmother Paula who suffers from dementia.

Having almost chosen elderly care as a medical speciality, I have always had an interest in the affirmaties of the elderly. All clinical experience aside though, I remember what an impression Martin Suter’s book ‚Small World‘, made on me when I read it some years ago. A novel which chronicles the slow demise of the protagonist into his ever-shrinking demented world. Around the same time, my old hairdresser’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. With each quarterly update, his condition rapidly deteriorated, but the incredible love and esteem with which she and her  family cared for him as well as the brave and practical way in which they confronted his illness, was nothing short of remarkable.

Millions of people suffer from dementia worldwide, and millions of spouses, relatives and friends spend time caring for someone with dementia. It’s definitely a condition worth talking about.

Here are a couple of pictures from the night at Elementarteilchen in Flingern, Düsseldorf:

Nomination for the best blog journal at Die Goldenen Blogger 2013

72311_622092564494318_975588264_nAbsolutely delighted to be nominated for a blog award!  Facts&Flowers is up for running in the category ‚best journal‘ in the annual ‚Die Goldenen Blogger 2013‘. What began as a tentative and secretive start to blogging on Tumblr in the heat of summer, has grown into a rewarding and fully fledged hobby as the eventful year now comes to an end.

I’m still very much a newbie, which is why this nomination has surprised me. Hoping to drop into Elementarteilchen – which is one of my favourite second-hand shops in Düsseldorf anyway and a must-visit for any girl interested in vintage clothing – where the awards ceremony is taking place tonight. Anyone who wants to vote, can do so during the live stream of the event from 20:15. I’m looking forward to being introduced to lots more blogs and hopefully interacting with a blogger or two. And although I don’t expect to walk away with an award, it’s seldom that I come away from a visit to Elementarteilchen completely empty-handed.



The man that discovered that James Bond was an alcoholic: an old University friend

Somehow the name rang a bell. I was delighted today to find out that the co-author of the Christmas BMJ article abut James Bond and his dangerous level of alcohol consumption is a fellow alumni of The University of Birmingham.

I was happy to be in contact  again with Graham Johnson today and find out how he was feeling. Somewhat bedazzled from radio interviews and press releases and more than a little surprised at the media spin and subsequent global reach of what was just a bit of Christmas fun. The BMJ is after all a medical magazine with a moderate impact factor, more or less for British doctors. Once a year though, the Christmas addition offers a few pieces of less serious stuff which embrace the Christmas spirit of fun. That the authors would be asked for interviews by ITV, the BBC and Al-Jazeera was definitely not to be expected.

As a regular stage performer at various medical school variety performances through the years, it doesn’t surprise me that Graham Johnson was behind this idea. It definitely represents British humour at its best. A humour which I miss on occasion living in Germany. Well done Graham Johnson and co!

What we can learn from James Bond about alcohol

The annual Christmas British Medical Journal (BMJ) is a showcase for the quirky and appealing British sense of humour, highlighting that doctors can be funny too. This year, a pseudo-study documenting the alcohol consumption of James Bond – as calculated in units by the authors after meticulously reading all 14 James Bond books – has made the rounds from ‚Die Welt‘ in Germany to ‚USA today‘ and even ‚Vanity Fair‘. Something the authors must be rather pleased about.

With an average weekly alcohol consumption of  up to 92 units a week, James Bond lies a bit higher than the recommended maximum 21 units a week for an adult male or no more than 4 units in one evening. The tongue-in-cheek article explains the various health-related complications arising from the over-consumption of alcohol, including liver disease and liver cirrhosis, depression, malignancies, high blood pressure and sexual dysfunction.

Most social drinkers probably don’t count their drinks on a night out or keep track of their alcohol consumption on a weekly basis in the same way that say, calories are subconsciously counted. But perhaps we should be doing it more. The line between safe use and abuse is easy to underestimate. Here’s a round up of alcohol guidelines as a little reminder and a ‚fun‘ way to check that you are still in control. Or if you prefer, after the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Christmas Greetings

My Christmas warm-up in England invariably included attending a carol concert, evenings of mulled wine with minced pies, opening a door of a chocolate advent calendar and deliberating over which Christmas cards to buy.

Well, there are no minced pies around in Germany, sadly little opportunity to belt out the soprano descant to ‚Hark the herald angels sing‘ and a chocolate advent calendar just doesn’t cut it among the accomplished homemade advent calendar creations that are on show here.

The Adventskranz, Plätzchen-making and evenings at Christmas markets after work drinking Glühwein and eating Wurst and Flammkuchen make-up for most of these losses.

The biggest casualty however has to be the lack of Christmas cards.  The problem stems not just from the poor supply (nice cards are hard to come by) but the barely existent culture of writing and sending them. And after 4 years, I seem to have succumbed to this cultural flaw.

Wasted paper and postage? Coming home late from work on december evenings to an empty flat was perked up by opening the odd brightly coloured envelope filled with christmas wishes from good friends from across the channel.

It’s a bit too late for this year, but my first resolution for the new year is to make more time to enjoy advent traditions and that will include sending more Christmas greetings. And maybe learning to bake some Plätzchen.


Open Notes

recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine reports the growing trend of  open access to medical notes for patients, and envisages a day when notes are truly shared – sealed with the signature of the patient alongside that of the physician in charge of their care. 100 primary care doctors in America agreed to allow 20,000 of their patients to read their notes (securely and on-line). The result? Patients had a better recall and understanding of their illness and treatment plan and none of the doctors chose to discontinue the practice at the end of the trial.

In my experience, requests to look into medical notes come rather infrequently. When one does come, alarm bells invariably start ringing, as it tends to imply dissatisfaction rather than curiosity and a desire to understand more. But perhaps it is time to move away from this territorial approach to medical notes.

The emphasis on note-taking varies across countries and the quality and legibility drastically from doctor to doctor. I’ve known colleagues to write verbosely of their findings and impressions with a happy flush of their pen at an intellectual level near to that of Dr. House, and others who document so poorly that it impossible to decipher anything of worth from the notes. As notes become electronic, as well as providing instant, legible access for multiple clinicians, providing assess to patients becomes easier.

At a dinner party recently, conversation turned to a guest’s unhappy experience as a patient, and his belief that his notes had been incorrectly documented. Open notes could improve the accuracy and quality of note-taking as well as resulting in improved trust in the doctor-patient relationship and perhaps even improving the standard of care.

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A packed hall lends a special atmosphere to any concert. Ring-side seats at the Tonhalle in Düsseldorf listening to Daniel Barenboim playing Schubert – a wonderful wedding present and a memorable evening.

European train journeys

IMAG0111The Europeans are known for their love of train travel. Complaining about the state of trains however is a pivotal part of that love. In a funny way, it brings people together: a beloved topic for small-talk, a recurrent status update on Facebook and Twitter, and a theme which often brings strangers into spontaneous conversation with thier fellow aggrieved passengers.

Studies have show that the more we earn, the happier we are – but only to an extent. There comes a point when earning more does not necessarily make us happier. A better train network seems to work in a similar way. Strictly speaking, the Germans have a better train network than the British (faster, more comfortable and generally more reliable), but are they more satisfied? No. The activity of complaining about the trains even has it’s own made-up word: „Bahn-bashing“. And with the reminder in the news today that the fares are about to be hiked up, there’s bound to be a fervent round of it.

In the last 2 weekends I have travelled 560km from Berlin and 600km to and from Munich on the train and marvelled at the ease and cosiness of it all; a comfortable seat to read my book, the knowledge that there is a carriage serving hot meals should I need it (the classic chilli con-carne is my tip), helpful passengers who helped with my heavy bag and no major delay, despite the first flakes of snow.

I’ve had my share of bad train journeys in Germany, but praise when praise is due. Despite the high kilometre count, I emerged from the end of the weekend with enough energy to go back to work on Monday morning feeling refreshed and thinking back wistfully upon my walk through the streets of Munich with magnificent buildings at every other corner, the scrumptious Schnitzel served up by the hearty barmaid at the Augustiner Brauhaus, the countless christmas markets and the stroll through the English gardens on a perfectly cold and sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s definitely a city I could imagine living in.


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A Saturday in Berlin

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I love London for its vibrancy, variety, innovation and constant ability to surprise. The bustle, density and roughness that comes with it simply has to be accepted. A day spent wandering the streets of London, although rewarding, will invariably leave you feeling exhausted and in need of a nap, at the very latest on the crowded tube ride home.

While I can only claim to know Berlin as an enthusiastic visitor, and while admittedly my Saturday was not spent in the city centre, walking aimlessly along the wide streets of Prenzlauer Berg without a map or any sort of plan was a simple pleasure. A lazy brunch in one of the many cosy cafes, strolling through the farmer’s market at Kollwitzplatz, browsing through boutiques and warming up with a cappuccino in yet another gem. A lazy yet energising Saturday.


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