Team Photo on Christmas Day - including the chickens!
Well that was fun!
Christmas, New Year and finally Australia Day all came and went with much merrymaking and plenty of activities. We spent Christmas Day with our family (bar two) on the east coast of Australia, but as the celebrations fade into the background, a sense of normality is beginning to return to the land. Next week, most children will be going back to school and a millions Mum’s (and an increasing number of home Dads) will be sighing a collective sigh of relief ... as will their offspring no doubt!
After New Year, I spent the month of January working in Mosman, NSW which I always find to be a delightful affair. One of the patients I saw there pointed to the copy of Captain Scully which just happened to be on my desk and asked, “Did you write that?” When I confirmed her suspicions she confidently informed me that she’d really enjoyed the TV serialization which she’d seen on SBS TV. I was about to correct her mistake, but something held me back.
Perhaps she knew something that I didn’t know?
So ... if any SBS Producer would like to contact me about Captain Scully, you can reach me via Mosman Medical Center on Military Road in Mosman.
On the subject of books, my next book, Mentor is in it’s final pre-publication stage. Sadly, the man who inspired the book passed away recently - Kev was 92 - but I was able to get a PDF of the book to his daughter who read some of it to him in his final days. That’s a very precious memory for me.
And in the pipeline I have a children’s book which I hope to publish later this year after my grandson has proof read it. As it features some Noongar folk in the storyline, the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council are kindly reviewing it for me. In time I hope to follow up with more such stories about Kip and Maali.
Finally, I hope you all have some dreams and plans for 2019, big or small, it doesn’t matter as long as you have some. It certainly is shaping up to be a wonderful year - despite all the gloom and negativity we read in the papers and see on our screens. The stories you create by living a full life will not only change you, but will encourage others to dream big too.
May your story prove to be a GREAT story in 2019.
I’ve been working up in the Pilbara in NW Australia. It’s iron ore country and the landscape is red as far as the eye can see. I thought I’d find a spot for a quiet read, but you’re never quite alone in the bush! Even though it was only 6.30am, it was still 36C and the flies were everywhere!! They’re pesky creatures, but hey, any audience is a great audience. Now if only I can teach them to talk and spread the word about Captain Scully, then I’d be a very happy man!
The evening was a great success and everyone had a good time. About 50 books were sold which reflected the enthusiasm of all those present. Mons Michael Keating - who had already read the book - stood up at the end of my book reading to say not only how much he had enjoyed reading the book, but how much he had also learned about how the aboriginals had been treated in the early years of settlement. He thought that I had treated their sufferings with great sensitivity. He then announce that he was buying three more books as Christmas present for extended family members! I call that divine intervention!
On Thursday 15th November 2018 I’ll be presenting Captain Scully to the people of Perth WA at a book launch in the Crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral. I’m super excited about this as it’s my first time to “perform” in public and share my story with a much wider audience. I hope some TV and media will be there as the story would make a great movie or TV series!!
Keep me in your thoughts and prayers and thanks for all your support over the past few years.
Maggie and I recently visited Ireland. The aim was to visit Ougterard in Galway where the principal character in my latest book - Captain Scully - spent many years as a Resident Magistrate.
But sometimes the unexpected is more exciting.
As a part of the trip we stayed at Monart Spa Resort in Co Wexford. There we indulged in a daily variety of saunas, great food and what can only be described as luscious scenery! The staff became friends as they cosseted us with kindness, and not only that, it was all internet free! With he quietness came a time to reflect and read.
In the “Old House” was a traditional country house library and after discussing an idea with Matt Bodo, the manager, I have donated some of my books to their collection, as both my books and Monart believe in Healing, Hope and in Inspiring people.
Some memories you carry with you for a long time - this was one of them.
It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder - so currently, I'm feeling the love!
Since I last wrote I've been working in Kuranda in far north Queensland and Burnie in north west Tasmania. In Kuranda it was 17C to 29C each day with blue skies, in Burnie it was -3c to 9C each day. One week it was shorts and jogs on the beach, the next it was four layers of clothes and walks along a wind-swept, yet beautiful-in-its-own-way beach.
But some wonderful things happened too.
Firstly, Captain Scully finally got into print!!! Now I'm working on the official release in hte next couple of months - it's going to be fun and involve bubbles!
Secondly, we saw some incredible things - snakes, crocodiles, astonishing bird life and trees like I've never seen before.
But the cutest experience, and the saddest was that of a little Joey that was rescued from it's dead mums pouch (colloquially talked of as road-kill) and reared by hand over several weeks by one of the reception staff in Kuranda. Sadly, young Mandy fell out of her artificial pouch one night and never recovered. It makes you realise that life, in all its varied forms, is fragile, Yet there are so many quiet folk who rescue Joey's, bats, birds, even snakes and after hand feeding them over weeks to months, release them back into the wild once they are have fully adapated!
Talking about being released into the wild - I managed to release a few of my books into both States, so hopefully more people can share the adventures of Rosso and Mr Dickens.
I hope you enjoy my happy snaps and videos - the world is an amazing place. So are the people!
And here are a couple of short videos. In the first, Captain Scully dips his toe in the Bass Straight on Cooee Beach, Burnie. The original Captain Scully would have visited those shores in 1838, and he wouldn't have been able to have a hot shower afterwards either!
In the second, yours truly shows his style in Port Douglas, far North Queensland whilst on a day off! Don't blink or you'll miss me!
In her brief existence this rare Swamp wallaby brought a lot of happiness. Vale Mandy.
The young bride and I have been going to an exercise physiologist recently in order to improve our overall strength and posture - it’s a thing you do when you approach three score years and ten! Over the decades, we’ve been pretty good at staying fit and eating the right foods, and we just saw this as another health related issue we could work on to stave off bodily decrepitude. The strange thing is that we’ve discovered a whole host of muscles which have lain dormant for over half a century, and we know that because every one of them are now aching!!
From a medical point of view, I know that the long term benefits of keeping up such exercises are going to be significant, and so we’re worrying too much about the short term pain. But becoming re-acquainted with all those muscles that I learned about in Med school is not the only thing I’ve been learning about the human body recently.
A part of our daily routine has been to make space for a short meditation - apparently it’s good for you although the changes are not as obvious as aching muscles. The challenge with meditation is “stilling the mind”. For me this is not easy and recently I’ve discovered why. Apparently there’s a neurological pathway in the brain which hadn’t been discovered way back when I was a wet-behind-the-ear junior Doctor. It’s called the Default Mode Network and was only discovered, almost by accident, in 2001.
It was noted that when patients undergoing MRI of their brains whilst waiting for the tests to begin - in other words, they were just lying there doing nothing - there was a part of the brain which remained active. Scientists believe that this is the part of the brain where we “self talk” - the time when all those thoughts float through our mind - others call it our Ego.
By learning to turn this pathway off, or at least to turn it down, our brain has the opportunity to experience consciousness on other levels, which is why trained meditators can experience almost mystical experiences. When MRIs are done on highly trained meditators, this area of the brain remains ‘quiet’ when they’re meditating. There are other ways in which this Network can be “switched off’ and these are currently being researched by major medical institutions in America and Europe. Researchers are now looking at how psychedelic drugs such as LSD and Psylocibin can have dramatically beneficial effects for patients with major depression, end of life anxiety issues and addiction. Preliminary results suggest that we need to change our attitude towards these drugs as, when used in controlled circumstances, not only do they appear to work better than any other medications currently being used, they are also safe and non addictive.
Neither the young bride or I intend rushing out to look for little brown mushrooms and “take a trip”, but this latest information has made us aware that our Egos can act as a sort of wheel clamp on our understanding of consiousness, and that through practices such as meditation and mindfulness, we can free our thinking and maybe achieve a greater understanding of what it really means to be fully human and fully alive.
I’ve been reading some fascinating books recently.
The first was Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary published by Yale University Press.
This book is all about the brain and believe me, it’s not for the faint hearted. I know a bit about medicine and the discipline of neurology, but the author of this book is in a league of his own. Here’s what Prof A C Grayling said in his review: “It embraces a prodigious range of enquiry, from neurology to psychology, from philosophy to primatologist, from myth to history to literature..”
I’m a night time reader and I found that after just reading two or three pages of this book, my brain could take no more and I’d fall asleep like a child. Not out of boredom, but because of the sheer density of fact and erudition that I’d just absorbed. I suspect that it took me several hours of sleep to allow my subconscious to sort out what I’d just read. Several weeks later I completed the book and let out a small cheer which temporarily distracted my wife from her Kindle. Nevertheless, I feel so much wiser for having completed such an Herculean task.
The second book which I am currently reading is called How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan and published by Penguin Press. It’s about Magic Mushrooms and other associated psychedelic drugs. But before you think I’m trying to relive the ‘Sixties (I wouldn’t remember it anyway) this is a well researched book and picks up on recent scientific publications which are showing some remarkable results when using these medications IN MEDICALLY CONTROLLED SITUATIONS, in cases of Depression, Addiction and End of life anxiety issues. The results are truly dramatic. The book poses the question of what is consciousness and how do we perceive it.
I know that when I write my books I am mildly surprised to discover all these characters and situations that have been “living in my head” for so many years without my knowledge of them. The more we study the brain the more intriguing and amazing we find it to be.
Inside each of our heads is a unique and parallel universe which we so often limit by constantly aping other peoples imaginations and other people’s ideas. We each have our own unique gifts, insights and talents which can be augmented and stimulated by reading, music, nature, other cultures, religion, meditation - the list is a long one. When we look at an infant in a cot and watch the sheer wonder in their face as they watch the sunlight through the leaves on a tree, that’s the sort of wonder that each of us still have within our own minds - it’s just that it’s been caked with layer after layer of other peoples expectations and fear of our own failure.
Reading such books, difficult as they sometimes are, helps expand our understanding of who and why we ‘are’.
Finally, earlier this week, I held in my hand the third book in my Renaissance Brothers series. It was such a good feeling. You should try it!
I watched Will Smith on YouTube the other day - he was talking about fear. Will does a great job with motivational talks but this one was a 'doozey!' As well as having a liberating effect - I won’t give away the full talk (you can watch it below) - it made me think about those times when something new, strange or challenging enters our lives, then most of us have “fear” as a default setting as our response .
The Doctor part of me know that when we are born out brain is about a third of it’s final size and it takes about twenty years to reach ‘full capacity.’ As the brain grows it adds billions of new neurons which send out their multiple connections to other brains cells, thus creating new memories/ideas/reflexes. But way back when a baby is born I would hazard a guess that the biggest emotion that floods it’s pristine brain is WONDER.
And you know what? The memories of that sense of wonder are recorded in the recesses of our minds, and, should you wish to access that emotion, then it is still possible to recall that incredible sense of wonder.
BUT .... the problem is that from that first glorious vision of the world, we are trained to fear so much of it.
Even the best of parents cannot resist the urge to keep their infants safe by warning them of the hidden dangers in the world and as they grow the list is added to on a daily basis. I remember being warned not to touch hedgehogs because they carry fleas: spiders of any sort were deadly dangerous - even daddy longlegs: and swans could break your arm with one swoop of their neck! By the age of three my world was starting to get seriously scary! Then there were other dangers: don’t go outside or you’d catch your death of cold, in fact don’t even go outside at all with wet hair or you’ll get sick: don’t talk to strangers, don’t swim in that pond because it doesn’t have a bottom or you’ll drown and whatever you do never ever look at the sun (which was the only sensible advice amongst it all.)
When it comes to all those deadly animals/reptiles and insects, we forget that we share a planet with them where they too live out their lives in their own unique way. The reality is that 99% of them are far more scared of us humans because we are FAR more dangerous than they are.
Thankfully, I’ve come to see hedgehogs as the cutest of creatures. I’ve totally changed my mind about snakes after I watched a King Brown snake - one of the more deadly ones in the world - slide across a path in front of me and head into some grass on the other side. I became fascinated by it as it nudged it’s way through the grass stopping from time to time to gently nuzzle some of the thicker stalks that stood in its way. Spiders are creative geniuses. They make webs which are some of the most beautiful wonders to behold. On a cold damp morning their finely crafted webs, be-decked with dewy jewelry, fairly sparkle in the dawn light.
I don’t advocate barging into the wilds and picking up the fauna to see how wonderful it it, but I’ve come to see the world as someone else’s house, one where you enter with respect for both the ‘owner’ and their environment.
As Will said, on the other side of fear is something truly amazing. We need to re-gather those times of infant innocence and see the world as it really is - full of wonder.
So to make up for the long silence, here are some images of Tasmania where I've been working these past few weeks.
And for a bit of Zen.....
As you can see, despite me returning home feeling pretty exhausted after some fairly intense Medical work, there was still time and opportunity to see some beautiful things in and around Hobart in Tasmania.
And that's the message for today.
If you actively seek to fill your mind with glimpses of beauty, your mind will retain them. But if you continually fill your mind with regurgitated news or other peoples' ideas then that's what your mind will feed on too.
In my books I try to balance all the sad, bad and ugly things that DO happen to ordinary, good people with the fact that so many of those ordinary good people can find solace and comfort in the smile of another or in the wisps of a white cloud against a clear blue sky.
My challenge for you all? Actively seek the beauty around you, and at the end of each day write down what you've seen or experienced. I promise you that it will change your life.
BTW - the latest book in the Renaissance Brothers series is close to completion (sorry for the delay). And Captain Scully is going through it's final edit and should be ready for a limited publication in hard back shortly as well.