One Week On...

Ok. So it's a week since I decided to quit smoking. Seven days since I decided to get rid of the Demon Weed. I thought I'd give you all a little update to let anyone who cares know how it's going.

Following my decision to quite on October 1st the first few days were difficult, and I do mean difficult! Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things I've ever done, and to think I decided to do this!

I managed to make it through Thursday, but had a little slip over the weekend, yes it's true. I could say it was only this or only that but a slip is a slip no matter the excuses given. I slipped and that's the end of it. 

After my stumble I felt terrible. I felt like I'd betrayed myself and all the people rooting for me. It was a moment of weakness. Still, move forwards not backwards. Don't dwell on it. I slipped. It happens. Move on.

Since the weekend I haven't touched a cigarette. The pride is swelling again and I'm starting to feel the benefit. I managed to climb a flight of stairs today (October 7th) without huffing and puffing when I got to the top. My breathing is beginning to improve, and I feel like I've got more energy. Apparently my sense of taste and smell will improve. Still waiting for that, but I'm staying optimistic. I've been told, several times, that I smell better, and my partner made a point of actually sniffing me when she saw me for the first time after I'd decided to quit.  

I'm starting to notice other little things too. Things that non-smokers wouldn't think about or even understand. Things like finishing a meal and not running straight out for a smoke, or walking straight into a shop without thinking right, I'm going in here, how long am I likely to be, and should I have a quick smoke before I go in? 

I'm using nicotine patches and this morning (October 7th) I didn't realise I didn't have one on until easily two hours after I got up, which was a shocker to be honest. I've been carrying a pack of cigarettes around with me even though I'm trying to quit. There's a reason for this, but first I have to tell you this. Last night (October 6th) I stayed away from home, and for the first time in almost as long as I've had my own bank account, I left the house without a pack of smokes in my pocket. That for me ladies and gentlemen, is absolutely HUGE!  

So why are you carrying them around then? Yes, I can hear you thinking it, and if you weren't before, I bet you are now aren't you? Thought as much. It's a fair question, and I do have an explanation. 

If I have them, it's my choice not to use them. If I don't have them, that choice is taken away from me and I know full well I will crave them, and too much of that means I'll smoke. It might seem pointless to a non-smoker, potentially even a little bit ridiculous? Maybe, but it's a coping strategy. It's my coping strategy. I'm the one quitting smoking, so quit judging me dammit! 

Sorry, still get a little bit snippy. Deep breath - I can do that without coughing now!

Even a fortnight ago, the very thought of leaving the house to go the shops, even walk the dog without my cigarettes would have had me panicking, and yesterday I took the plunge, got in the taxi completely devoid of any tobacco at all. So couple that, with me not even realising I didn't have a patch on the next day until two hours after I got up is telling me that (at the moment) I'm winning the fight. I might be in with a chance here.

Happy days!

I've still got a good way to go, and there's always the chance for more slips ups (I never knew so many people smoked! Temptation is everywhere!) but so far so good.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with the smallest step" - I don't know who said it, but it helps to think about it in this way. 

Night all!

Dave C. Bannerman

 

24 Hours Smoke Free!

This post covers my first smoke free day in almost 17 years: October 1st, 2015.

As the title suggests, I did it. I didn’t ever think I’d manage it, but ladies and gentlemen, I bloody well did it! I went a whole day without a cigarette, and that for me is a massive achievement!

Coming from thirty, yes thirty, a day to absolutely none? My sense of pride in this cannot be overestimated. Trust me, it really can’t.

It wasn’t an easy day though, ohhh no. Let’s go through it shall we?

The day started, as most days do, when I woke up. Once I’d gotten over the shock of being woken up by the shrill squealing of my alarm that is. Now, my first thought when I opened my eyes was never I need a cigarette, it was always more along the lines of oh god no! but my second thought, which I think is far more telling, was always this: If I get up I can have a smoke. It was no different this morning. So up I dragged myself, staggered into the bathroom and started my day.

Usually my second port of call in these not-so-wee-but-still-fairly-small-hours is the kitchen, where I noisily fill the kettle and put it on to boil. This is the first step to preparing half of my breakfast. Coffee .There’s usually a swear word or two thrown in around this point just because…well because I can. It makes me feel better. Usually once I’ve slapped the kettle on I’m out in the shed lighting my first cigarette before the electricity hits the element. Again, this morning was no different.

Before I know it I’m in the shed, the familiar feel of the cigarette between my lips, the comfortable feel of the lighter in my hand, that wonderful sound of the flint striking and the glorious sight of that little flame erupting from its hiding place. All I had to do was touch that flame to the end of the waiting cigarette, inhale deeply and…ahhhh, good morning world!

Not this morning though.

I was in the shed, just about to light the cigarette when suddenly I remembered I’m supposed to be quitting today. I won’t lie to you, I did consider sneaking that one. It was already out, near enough lit, and I wanted it! Boy oh boy, good lord and heavens above I wanted that smoke! Badly. I wrestled with my conscience, and somehow, I don’t know how so don’t ask, I managed to resist. I went back into the kitchen and just stood there, looking around. A little confused.

You have to understand that now I was out of my routine. A routine I’d been in my entire working life. Get up. Get washed and dressed. Put the kettle on. Have a smoke. The last part of my routine no longer existed. I honestly didn’t know what to do! As ridiculous as that sounds it’s the absolute truth.

I decided on some breakfast. I never eat breakfast, but at six o’clock on this morning the world seemed to have gone completely mad so why not? I made some porridge and had two spoonfuls before it went in the bin. Some habits won’t ever change I’m afraid.

It felt strange walking to work without having a smoke too. There’s a certain point along the route where I always stopped to light up, and I had it timed perfectly. I’d get that one finished in time to allow for one more before I reached work. See? A smokers logic.

It was even stranger throughout the day. My break is timed perfectly to three cigarettes. That’s how I know it’s time to get back to it. After my third cigarette I’ve been on my break roughly twenty-five minutes, which gives me five minutes to get through the building to where I actually do my job. See? Routines. Smokers build them around cigarettes. Today I was all out of sync and to be honest I was pretty rattled by it. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t comfortable and I was very nervous.

For a smoker, it’s not just the act of smoking that’s important. For a lot of us (because I haven’t kicked the habit yet) it’s the structure and routine smoking gives us. We understand it. We feel safe within it and we don’t like being taken out of it. It just seems all wrong.

Resisting the urge to smoke after my lunch was almost as difficult as fighting the urge to light up first thing in the morning. After a meal is when most smokers enjoy their habit most. It signals an end to the eating, and the start of whatever comes next. It’s an anchor point for the different stages of the day. I had no anchor point and I began to feel like I was starting to drift through the afternoon. My day had no ‘stages’. It was all very strange.

This might sound totally ridiculous to the non-smokers and the hardcore anti-tobacco league, but trust me, as a smoker for more than half of my life I’m telling you, this is how it is. It goes a lot deeper psychologically than just lighting a fag.

So I’d gotten through the morning and made it through lunch. Good times. But I still had a long way to go. and at 1p.m. the hill I had to climb might swell have been Mount Everest, because I didn’t think I stood a chance!

The rest of the afternoon passed slowly, and I desperately prayed to get through the next hour, and silently rejoiced when I did, because I do wantto quit. I’m not being forced into this.

My mood throughout the day wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but it wasn’t great. I was little impatient at times but I don’t think I was ever snappy or nasty. It helped that I was in work. I had a lot of good people around me giving me encouragement and egging me on. I had a lot to do to take my mind off smoking, and I had a nicotine patch as well and an electric cigarette the size of a small Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (seriously, it’s a whopper). Had I been sat at home, or even out and about I never would have made it, and you won’t convince me otherwise.

But I managed it. I don’t know how, but I did. So now it has to get easier…right? RIGHT???

Night All!

Dave C. Bannerman

Crowd Stupidity

I don't tend to lose my cool often. I try to just let things pass. Why get het up? There's a few things in this world that do wind me up though. Shop-keepers who're too busy on their phones to give you the right change. Loquacious people who think everyone's interested in their opinion, and mothers who think it's perfectly acceptable to block passageways on public transport with empty pushchairs. I know you have the right to ride the bus, but the pram's empty so why not fold it down then people don't have to risk breaking their necks climbing over it do they?

These, and a few other things are small, and soon forgotten about once I've lit a cigarette and finished quietly swearing to myself. One of the big ones though, one of the few things that are likely to send me into a near-homicidal rage are crowds. I hate them.

Let me be clear, I don't mean at a concert, or a football match, that's a bit different, what I'm on about  are things like events, the Giants visit last year for example. Crowds in that context give me the red mist and my jaw starts to clench involuntarily. I can't help it. Why? Because people are stupid!

Oh, and horrendously ill-mannered.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I'd planned to go to Sunderland to a concert, but I've injured my back, so that was that out of the window. So not wanting to waste the Bank Holiday, I decided to go into Liverpool City Centre. This weekend commemorated the 175th anniversary of the Cunard shipping line (check out my Facebook stream - www.facebook.com/saysathousandwords for photos, or click the link above) and three of their largest cruise liners, the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, collectively known as the 'Three Queens', were meeting on the River Mersey. It doesn't happen often, might never happen again.

So, being the snap-happy shutter-bug I am, off I went with camera in hand, and my girlfriend beside me (to potentially carry me home - or to the hospital should that need arise) and we soon found the crowds. Didn't we just.

We started on the Sunday afternoon, and to be fair the crowds weren't too bad. Yes there were crowds all heading to see the QM2 berthed at the cruise terminal, but it was bearable. People milling about, taking photographs, the usual stuff, and I was there too, doing exactly the same. The weather was good, there was a fairground set up near the ship, happy days. So that was alright. No red mist.

Monday however, was a different tale entirely.

I'm not a rude person, most of the time. I'm genuinely not. I try to be polite and courteous, especially to the older generation or that poor woman with four kids, a pram, and a husband who isn't helping. I step out of the way, I let them pass, I stand up and give my seat where I can, it doesn't cost anything to be polite, smile, and we all get on. Not everyone thinks like this though.

We go to a vantage point near the Liverpool Museum on the Pier Head, and the crowd was huge, easily a few hundred thousand people, lots of children (fair enough) and people with cameras (like me).

One thing that struck me was a lot of the children didn't seem to want to be there. I think they'd have much rather have been home on their iPads or X-Boxes. But I understand that if you've got a couple of kids you're going to seize the chance for some free entertainment and get them some fresh air. At least if you care about your kids.

Another thing that didn't so much strike me as annoy me (and here comes the first rant) was the idiot, buffoon, FOOL of a man pushing his was to the front with his, frankly not very good, camera. I'm sorry, I'm not a gear snob, a lot of my stuff at the moment is second hand, but I wouldn't have even bothered bringing what he had. He wasn't even polite about it, just barged through and almost knocked one little girl right off her dads shoulders. At leat I'm assuming it was her dad. But this goes back to what I was saying about people being stupid and rude.

I had enough gear on me that I could get some shots without being a dick. Would I have liked to get closer? Of course! Would I have shoved my way through and potentially hurt someone? Absolutely not! If I'd have been that child's father I would not have been so restrained, so well done that man!

Now, I just want to pop things into perspective for anyone who hasn't seen these ships. A cruise ship is inherently large. The Queen Mary 2 is definitely on the bigger side, at 1,130 feet long, that's as long as 36 double decker buses, or nearly four football pitches. It's 200 feet above the waterline, equal to the height of a 23 storey building. What I'm trying to say is, no matter where you stand you're going to see this thing! You'd have to be an extra special, almost vintage brand of stupid to miss it! Even if you somehow did manage to miss this one, there were two more!!!

The other two ships were almost as big, almost as long, just as loud and right there on the river for you to look at! Why oh why was this idiot pushing to get through?

Ok, rant over. For now. But don't worry, I have more.

Once we'd seen the ships do their manoeuvres on the river (a 360 degree turn and then move into something called a three-a-breast formation) it was time for coffee. We just missed the Red Arrows, wasn't happy about that but I was craving caffeine and a seat. I've hurt my back remember? We began to pick our way through the crowds and move away from the river. Here comes the next rant, a bit quicker this time.

As we were picking our way through hordes of people, who can see us approaching, they continue to walk on their course, meaning that if I didn't change my course, they'd have walked straight into me. This, to me at least, is confusing. If I'm walking towards someone and I sense there's going to be a collision, I take a few easy steps to avoid it. I slow down or switch direction a little so I don't walk into them.

AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOES THIS??? Apparently I am!

After a few minutes of this my jaw was going good style and I gave up being polite. If you ain't moving then neither am I! You want to play chicken? You're on! I'll win! I knocked into more than one person this way but I'd given up. I'd joined the rude race, the 'I'm the only person on this street so fuck you' crowd but I didn't care. Older people and youngsters were off limits, I moved. Everyone else? Fair game! Walk into me I DARE YOU! I managed to bounce a few people out of my way by just not caring. A few people saw me coming and moved. A lot didn't. Tough. I'd had enough by this point.

We found a coffee shop. Thank god! After a very swift (and by swift I do mean fast) table grab, the other couple just weren't as quick as my girlfriend, we were settled down to a coffee and something to eat.

After we left we went into Liverpool One for a quick look at camera bags (I'm looking for a new one) and on the way over Beth made mention of people bringing little dogs out into crowds. It wasn't the first time she'd mentioned this and if she mentions something more than once then it's a legitimate gripe, my smoking is a most definite legitimate gripe of hers.

I began to notice that ridiculous amounts of people had brought there little dogs. So here comes rant number three. Sorry.

I'm a dog-lover. I have a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and I love him to bits. He's a cheeky little git with a fetish for socks and hair bobbles. I take him for long walks, nearly always share my meals with him, but never mushy peas. That's a mistake I won't ever repeat! I try not to be too soft with him but he's spoilt rotten.

He's not very big, so one thing I wouldn't ever do is take him into a crowd of people where he could so very easily be trodden on and hurt. That would of course cause me to smack the snot out of whoever wasn't looking where they were going and it's just stress nobody needs. Yet everywhere I looked I saw these little dogs. Some were getting a little excitable with the crowds and one in particular looked downright distraught.

Why bring them?

You can't leave kids, fair enough, but surely the dog doesn't need to attend the event. Seriously, unless it's Krufts the dog doesn't need to go! Leave it at home! If it got hurt you'd have a fit! I know I would, and once I'd physically assaulted whoever stood on my little mate I'd come to realise that it was actually my fault for taking him. Responsible dog ownership isn't hard.

After a crowded bus ride home we were out of the crowds and could breathe again, and this post makes me sound like a right nark, but seriously, I'm not that bad.

If people were a little more considerate, took a little more time to think of others and weren't so ignorant then being in a crowd wouldn't be so bad. People pushing and jostling to get five feet closer to something you can see from two miles away is massively infuriating, especially when I'm the one being pushed and jostled. It's not necessary.

This post makes the day sound horrendous. t really wasn't. Seeing the ships together like that was really impressive and I'm glad I went, but it was the attitudes of the people around me, the ignorance, the impatience and the general bad manners that took a little bit of the shine off it.

Sort your heads out people, and bloody well play nice!

Night all!

Dave C. Bannerman

Photography

Ok, so anyone who knows me had to know that at some point this blog was coming. So, here it is. I've been taking photographs properly (almost obsessively) now for around six months now. So I figured it was a good time to think about where I'm at and kind of reflect on the er...story so far.

I've always liked taking pictures, but I've always only ever used my phone. I was given a 10 mega-pixel Kodak digital camera for Christmas about 10 years ago but didn't really use it. I found it in a drawer a few days ago, and it inspired me to write this post.

As I said, I like taking photographs, but they were always of nights out, or me pulling stupid faces, or candids when my mates weren't looking. My first camera phone was a Sagem MY-75 and it was second-hand when I got it. I'd take pictures of random things just because...well, I could. It had a two, three, or maybe a four mega-pixel camera, certainly no more than that, and a fifteen second video capacity. Fifteen seconds. Primitive by today's standards, but back then? State of the art dahling!

Before I go on let's hold our horses a minute. Some of you may not be familiar with the term 'mega-pixel', which is fine, because I'm going to explain it really quick. Ready? Here we go.

A digital image is made up of millions of tiny, microscopic coloured squares. These squares are the 'pixels' and are arranged into specific patterns to form the image, which our brains translate into  something we recognise as a picture. It's like a giant jig-saw puzzle. I did say this was a basic explanation!

If an image is 'pixellated' these squares are really obvious to see.

The term 'mega-pixel' (MP) means a million pixels. So, for example, if your phone has an 8MP camera, that means your phone captures images at eight million pixels and uses them to build the photograph you see on the screen. A photograph taken with a 20MP camera will be a lot clearer, sharper and more detailed than a photograph taken on a 12MP camera, simply because there are more pixels to build the image. The image will be the same size as the one out of the 12MP camera, but they'll be packed a lot closer together.

Still confused? Ok, let's try another analogy.

Think of a computer. A computer stores information in 'bytes', terabytes (TB), gigabytes (GB), and megabytes (MB). Each byte is a small piece of information amongst millions of bytes. A byte is a single unit of computer memory, so a pixel can be likened to a single unit of a whole picture. Pixels are also how screen resolution is measured, but I'm not going into Pixels Per-Inch (ppi) or whether AmoLed is better than LCD because I'm really not that bothered.

Inevitably phones got better and the cameras improved with more and more mega-pixels, which just meant I was taking higher quality images of the same crap, pint glass, take away food, my mates drunk. I carry a phone with a 14MP camera now. Not that you care.

I still wasn't really that bothered about photography though, as a hobby or maybe even a profession. It just wasn't something I was into. All that started to change however, in June of 2014.

I was at home flicking around on YouTube, as you do when you can't sleep - or is it just me? Anyway, I came across a video on something called 'Smartphone Photography.' What the hell is 'Smartphone Photography'??? I clicked the video and stated to watch it. By the end of it I was even more curious. I remember looking at my phone thinking 'the camera on my phone was better than his...and he got some nice pictures there.' After about two hours or so I'd watched two short(ish) documentaries and loads of five-minute snippet videos on this 'Smartphone Photography.' My interest was aroused.

So feeling inspired I downloaded the app that this lot seemed to be using. It was free, but later I discovered my phone had virtually the same software already built-in, it just looked a bit different. Nice! I took a selfie and started to edit in inside the app.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but it happened. I suddenly found myself wanting to take photographs. I was literally looking for things to take pictures of. My dog flees the room every time he sees my phone now, bless him.

As I was looking for better quality editing apps I discovered Photoshop (some say the pinnacle of image editing software) had an app for Android. I bought it and began to put the images of my poor, harassed dog through the wringer.

I needed to take more photographs. I had to find other things to shoot. I headed into Liverpool City Centre with my (long-suffering but ridiculously patient and supportive) girlfriend, and we wandered about all afternoon taking pictures, right up until it got dark.

And I loved it!

The pictures from that day were all processed through the Photoshop app on my tablet. I still use it, but not much anymore.

So it went on. I bought a notebook and began to make lists of places I wanted to go and take photographs. I asked people if they knew of anywhere. I shyly showed a few photographs to some trusted, honest people and their responses gave me the little bit of confidence I needed to stick my nose through this intriguing door. And it smelt good!

I began to watch tutorial videos on light, composition and editing. Suddenly I'd found videos on all kinds of different photography fields and styles. Landscape, portrait, product and macro photography. Street photography, cloudscape photography and something called 'Bokeh" which is Japanese for 'blur'...blur photography? What??? I soaked it all up and couldn't stop. I scribbled page after page of notes in this little notebook I'd bought which has now become my bible, and I don't go anywhere without it.

The last weeks of summer 2014 (which was an amazing year for me by the way) literally vanished as I sat at my computer transfixed by all of this.

My girlfriend and I were planning a trip to Rome around Christmas time. It wasn't our original idea, but it sure beat the Isle Of Mann - not that there's anything wrong with the Isle Of Mann.

I decided I didn't want to be taking pictures of one of the worlds most ancient cities on a phone. I was getting serious now. I wanted a DSLR. I needed a proper camera! I found one too.

After agonising and arguing (with myself) for something like 20 minutes over a milkshake I strode across the street to the camera shop, slapped £130 on the table and got my trembling hands on my first DSLR, a Sony A300.

It didn't have many bells and whistles but it looked like it had the basics to get me started. My child-like excitement was severely tempered when I got it home though. Looking at it on the table, all shiny and refurbished I realised that...I had NO CLUE how to work it!

Youtube!

I smashed through tutorial after tutorial. The controls of the camera, the best set up, lenses, triggers, lighting, flashes, soft boxes, diffusers, filters, reflectors oh good god! What had I been missing out on here?!?

I acquainted myself as much as I could with controls on the back of the camera. This was no Kodak point and Shoot. It's a heavy, monster of a camera. I had to go and take photographs. It was the only thing to do. Off I went, alone this time.

I'd heard photographers in the videos I'd watched describe taking pictures alone as a zen-like, soothing experience. and it kind of was, I didn't exactly become one with nature but it was relaxing, although the pictures I took were horrendous! Some were too dark, others were too light, most of them were out of focus and all of them were boring. I needed some more help. So I bought a book, and read it cover to cover.

I looked at cross-sections of cameras and learned how they actually worked. From the aperture blades to the shutter-doors, the lens cap to the pentaprism, and what the hell is a Diopter? I learned it all! Which mode was best to shoot in at what time? When did the best light occur during the day? What was hard light? Why was it hard? What was soft light? What made it soft? What was the difference? I chewed through all of this quicker, and with greater effect than I've ever disseminated anything. It was sticking! I could remember the tips, tricks and lessons I saw after just one run-through.

I'm sure you'll appreciate how amazing this was for me when I tell you that I have to check my watch twice for the time, and I never know what the date is.

After I little while I was starting to see how the 'golden triangle' or the 'photographers trinity' worked and began to learn about apertures, shutter speeds and ISO numbers. I started to understand, recognise and appreciate how these three things were intricately connected, and how they all affected each other. I kept finding new things to study. F-stops, focal length, depth of field. every time I started to get a grip on one thing, I found three more things I needed to learn about.

No doubt about it now, I was well and truly hooked. I was waist-deep in photography quicksand and I was preparing to hold my breath.

I started to work on the pictures I'd taken (remember, Photoshop on my tablet?) I won't try to hide it. I can't. They were awful! They were shockingly bad, and you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear, but it was practice. I forced myself not to care about the images so I wasn't bothered if I lost them. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, I tried this, I had a crack at that, I give the other thing a go and whoops! image deleted. It was trial and error, and if was definitely a trail and there was a lot of error but I was starting to learn. Looking back now my first 100 or so attempts weren't very good at all. Over-saturated, under-exposed, completely the wrong colours. They were like little mini accidents all in a row on my screen. Remember, this was all completely new to me, I'd never done this and I was trying to teach myself. My eye was getting better though. Slowly, but surely, I was getting better at it.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you I got it right first time. I didn't. I nearly packed the whole thing in more than once. One particular evening, after I'd been out all day battling with the camera to get it to do as it was told, I came home, cold, tired and hungry - with a huge blister on my foot from all the walking I'd done - sat down, uploaded my images...and accidentally deleted the lot! I almost cried that night in anger and frustration. I think that was the closest I came to binning the camera and forgetting about the whole thing.

I kept at it though. I was determined I was going to get at least a basic understanding of how to do this no matter what, and for a few weeks everything else be damned! I didn't want to eat, had to force myself to sleep and I hated leaving the house to go to work. I sat for hours and hours tinkering, fiddling with the settings in the Photoshop app, experimenting with every kind of alteration I could find. I was officially obsessed! The only other thing I remember making a conscious effort with during those few weeks was my relationship. Thankfully.

Then, by chance, I found a better camera. I was on now! I started using it and within a couple of days my New(ish) Nikon D3100 (yes, another entry-level one) became my primary camera. The Sony (which I do still use) was relegated to second place. I started accumulating gear after this. Lenses, flashes, tripods. I went into Liverpool City Centre for a haircut and a shave at a new gents' barbers, and came back with a camera lens! After a while I bought a new laptop and the full Photoshop program, and a graphics tablet. I began to freak out at how complicated Lightroom seemed to be and I wasn't getting anywhere with it.

Then I had a bit of a revelation. I realised I was trying to go too fast. I was trying to learn everything in a few months and it wasn't going to happen. So I relaxed. I slowed right down and went back to basics. Taking photographs.

Now, when I go out to take photographs I take photographs. I try not to worry about the post-processing bit. Just get out, with the camera and capture what I see. Once I did that I found out what they were talking about in those videos. The 'Zen' of photography if you like.

So, with patience, practice, gritty (yes, gritty) determination and more focus (excuse the pun) than I've ever thrown at anything in my whole life, my photography is, hopefully, improving. Even if it's only slightly. I'm under no illusions. I'll probably never stop learning. I hope I don't, because learning is half the fun right? People I've spoken to, people who've seen my work seem to like it, but then they may just be being kind. Either way I'll be sticking with it.

The addition of a brand new editing suit, a Facebook page, this website, and hopefully a dedicated Twitter account, plus some personal projects I have planned will all, fingers crossed, spur me on to improve and learn.

It's not often I'm gripped by a passion. If something's too hard, or takes too long I tend to give up. Not a trait I'm proud of. Photography though, whether you like my images or not, has become an all-consuming obsession! And I'm not giving it up for anybody.

At the end of the day though, the gear doesn't matter, it's the photographs that count.

Ok, left a bit...chin up a little...lovely, look over there...beeeeaaaauuuuutiful!

CLICK!

Dave C. Bannerman

The Night Christmas Was Saved...

You might think this title is a little bit dramatic, and at first glance you could absolutely be forgiven for that. But read on dear reader, and you'll discover how my dad and I really did save Christmas for our neighbours. Ok, so it's Christmas Eve. I'd finished my shopping, all the gifts were wrapped, the stress and headaches were slowly melting away as I sat on my sofa Xbox control pad in hand.

I was called out into the back yard by my dad with quite a sense of urgency. I dropped the game controller and went to see what was up. He asked if I could hear a noise. I became aware that I could hear something. It was a high-pitched, but fairly faint, beep-beep-beep-beep. Thinking back on it I think I became aware of the noise as I was making my way through the dining room, but my mind might just be adding that in, I can't be sure.

I confirmed I heard the noise and we both began to look about. Just why we did this I'm not sure. Two blokes stood in a yard looking around for a beeping we could both barely hear.

I admit to having absolutely no idea what it was. Then my dad made a suggestion: "Do you think it could be next doors smoke alarm?"

I don't know why I looked, but I'll be forever glad I did.

As I peered over the shoulder-high wall separating the two back yards into next doors kitchen window I saw it. Smoke. Thick. Black. Smoke. It was starting to go quite dark out, but I could still see the smoke. The Christmas lights around the kitchen were in a kind of foggy haze. It took a couple of seconds for my brain to register what was going on:  

FIRE!!!

Within a second we were both running back through the house to the front door. My dad had the good sense to grab a spare set of keys to the neighbours he keeps for emergencies.

All of the fire training I'd sat through bored to tears came flooding back. I checked the handle of the front door with the back of my hand, it was cold. Good sign. I inserted the key and opened the door an inch. No rush of heat. Good sign. I pushed the door open and we headed down the hall.

The smoke detector was going bezerk! It was almost deafening this side of the wall. The hallway was filled with smoke and we were coughing within seconds. I pushed on through the dining room door, my dad right behind me. Scanning, searching for any indication of a fire. Archie, the family dog suddenly appeared through the smoke. Poor little thing was beside himself. My dad calmed him down and got him out of the room while I kept looking. I couldn't find anything openly burning.

My eyes were starting to stream and my lungs were really starting to starting to complain. My dad was the same. I could hear him coughing and retching from somewhere behind me. I turned this way and that and saw the cause of all this noxious horrible smoke.

There, on the stove, a saucepan was smoking fitfully. Plumes were gushing up from whatever was inside, lit underneath by one of the gas rings. My dad had gotten the dog away from the worst of the smoke but I was really starting to suffer now. My mouth had dried out and I wasn't so much coughing as dry-vomiting by this point. I switched the gas off and felt the dog knock into the bottom of my legs. He'd gotten away from my dad and had come back into the kitchen. By the time I'd grabbed his harness my dad was at the back door fumbling with the key to get it open. Once we'd opened it poor Archie, the beloved family guardian, was unceremoniously tossed into the yard and ordered to "Stay!" 

So the main danger was dealt with, but we were still choking in the smoke-filled house. At this point more neighbours had arrived and we set about opening windows and trying to clear some of the fumes. Every room was thick with the stuff, and I struggled for every breath as I opened every window possible upstairs. Coming back down the stairs I tried to switch the howling smoke detector off and couldn't. I ended up punching it off the ceiling. Crude, but effective.

While this was happening my dad phoned the lady of the house, let's call her Jo, who thought he was having a heart-attack due to the coughing and choking, and began to freak out herself.

Within a few minutes of every window and door being opened the smoke had dissipated and we tried to get our breath back. A few minutes after that Jo arrived with one of her sons. They'd been last-minute shopping.

It transpired that after being asked to put the slow cooker on while they finished the last of their shopping, Jo's son had accidentally turned the hob on instead. 90 minutes earlier. Accidents happen.

So aside from a rather nasty smell and a huge laundry pile there was no real damage done. The saucepan was destroyed, as was the smoke alarm probably, but that was it. Archie the dog was no worse for the experience.

So the house was saved, and as I said, so was Christmas. At least for our neighbours...

Merry Christmas!

Dave C. Bannerman

 

I bought a MacBook...

Anyone who's known me for any length of time will probably know that I like technology. I embrace it and try to utilise it as much as I can. I've been called a geek and I've been called a nerd but that's ok. I believe technology is the future. Granted, there are some technologies we definitely don't need. My Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch mint fall into that category, but I find it quite useful. Being such a supporter of technology, it may surprise you to know that I've never owned an Apple product in my whole life. I'm very much an "Android guy". I've been a staunch supporter (and user) of the platform since it began operating. iOS has never interested me.

While I'm not going to turn this post into an Apple advert, millions of people can't be wrong can they?

As I'm slipping deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of photography - my girlfriend and my wallet can definitely attest to that - I found myself needing something with a bit more kick than my Samsung Note 10.1 2014 tablet. As much as I love that device it really isn't up to the job anymore. I needed raw processing power. I needed more than 32 gigabytes of onboard storage. I needed a bigger, higher resolution screen. I needed all this power in a lightweight, sleek, strong package. I needed a Mac!

At least...that's what they told me in the Apple Store in Liverpool One...but then again, they would wouldn't they? My head was swirling as I left the store. I'd been through an in-depth-ish demonstration of the new 2014 13" Macbook Pro Retina, instead of the MacBook Pro. The one I was interested in looking at to start with. Still not quite sure how that happened.

I still wasn't sure about buying an Apple product though, considering how much I've bashed them over the years. I began to wonder if there was an alternative (by wonder I mean it was suggested to me). I went to another store (which I won't name) and asked about it. There was an Apple rep in the store and he was far more helpful. Probably because he was a rep not a salesman but anyway, moving on.

The guy explained to me that to get the same power and everything else I needed in another brand of computer would be expensive, unreliable and probably wouldn't las any longer than 12 months. Then I got him to go over a few of the features that had intrigued me the day before. He also said all (near enough) the same stuff the other guy had said but, and this is the strange part, in a completely different way. Which I liked. A lot. Whether he was more skilled in sale-speak, whether it was because he in fact wasn't chasing a commission, or maybe he was genuinely trying to help a confused Android user, who's platform and operating system of choice didn't seem to be working for him, I don't know. I don't care either. I found the salesman in the Apple store to be a little pushy, and the moment I said "photography" that was all he seemed to focus on.

The rep however, did a much better job of explaining how a Macbook would help me, and not just why. He didn't force it on me. He wasn't pushy, and I felt I was able to take my time. The best bit is, once he'd finished explaining, not telling me, how and why a Mac would suit my needs better than other brands he buggered off and left me alone to think it over, instead of standing there gorping at me mentally spending his commission. I didn't feel pressured at all.

I tinkered with the display model. I did a quick picture edit. I opened up some apps, typed a note, had a little play with the camera, closed the lid, picked it up, put it down and went for a walk around the other laptops.

So after some coffee and a lengthy "should I shouldn't I" discussion both with myself and my ever patient other half, I bit the bullet and bought a shiny 2014 Macbook Pro with Retina Display.

And I f*****g LOVE it!

The rep was right. He explained it all to me, laid it out and finished his pitch with, and I quote -

"ONCE YOU START USING A MACBOOK YOU'LL WONDER WHY IT'S TAKEN YOU SO LONG"

And he wasn't wrong.

 

At the time this post is published I'll have been a Mac user for maybe 50 or so hours. So not very long but y'know what? In that short space of time the things I've been able to do with it have literally blown me away. Editing photographs is a breeze. Blogging is a breeze. I'm truly amazed at how sleek and nice it all is. There's a bit of a learning curve to it, I'm getting over the fundamental differences, I finding it really easy.

Now if you're reading this and thinking "You're easily impressed Mr. Bannerman" please remember something: I've never used an Apple product. I tried an iPhone. Hated it. Used it once and didn't ever bother with it again. My last "dedicated" laptop was a Dell Inspiron 1520 running Windows XP that I bought second-hand for £120. When that packed up I got a Google Chromebook. Great little machine for web browsing but not much else.

So to have this monster of a laptop with a quite frankly alien operating system is both amazing and confusing. I've been like a small child trying to wrap his brain around an old Magic-Eye picture, but I'm embracing it as fast as I can because it works.

So have I been converted? Will I ditch my Android devices for iOS? Will I buy an iPad? Will I be queuing all night for the next bi-annual iteration of the iPhone? Certainly not.

While I'm ridiculously impressed with the MacBook and all it can do, I still have a problem with iOS. My mobile devices (phone and tablet) will remain Android based. I like the platform, I know it, I understand it and I've been using it for years. When it comes to laptops though, I think Apple just might have a new life-long customer.

Cheers!

Dave C. Bannerman

Ahhh a nice day off...oh wait!

We've all done it. You're warm, comfortable, and very asleep in your bed. Your alarm starts to sing. You groggily open your eyes, cack-handedly swing your arm in the general direction of that hideous noise, hoping to stop it on the first pass so you can drift off back to sleep. It takes you a couple of attempts but you finally manage it. The silence is golden, order is restored. You roll over, pull up the covers, wriggle a bit and start to slide. After all, today's your day off. No work. No having to get up, drag yourself into the shower, brush your teeth, pull on your work clothes (whatever they may be), and schlep to that place in which you toil. Today, blissfully, wonderfully, and absolutely without doubt, is your day off. 

You're almost positive it is. Almost.

Then, reality sets in. You suddenly realise with horror that in fact, it's not your day off. It's ok though, because you only closed your eyes for five minutes right? Wrong. The alarm went off an hour ago! You're going to be late! 

With a volley of swear words, curses and all round profanity you jump from your bed and try to do everything at once. You run around your bedroom frantically gathering your clothes, which get dumped onto the bathroom floor before you hurl yourself into the shower toothbrush in hand.

Hurry up! Get a move on!

In the shower it doesn't get any better. You fumble, drop things, soap in yours eyes? Fight through it. Move! Scalded, half blinded and with a mouth full of soap flavoured toothpaste you only just about manage to get out of the shower without doing yourself a mischief.

After you've found the towels, dried yourself off (sort of) and finished cleaning your teeth, you need a second to get over the shock of seeing what's looking back at you in the mirror before reaching for the hairbrush or comb. After a bit of faffing about and some more swearing your throw the brush or come away and turn to the pile of clothes on the floor with a "that'll do" snort and start to get dressed.

By dressed I mean your clothes are at least on your body, whether they're on the correct way around isn't something you concern yourself with at this point.

Come on! Get a shake on! 

Next order of business is coffee or tea. Everyones morning routine differs at this point. For the smokers, it's kettle on, fags out, light your first happy moment of the day. For the non-smokers it might be something else. Whatever your routine is you're doing it, and you're doing it fast.

Ok, smokers have had their fag, non-smokers have done their thing. Kettle's boiled, so you make a cup of whatever it is you have. And burn the gob (mouth - for anyone outside of Liverpool) off yourself as your try to drink it in one gulp. Oh happy times! Today's going to be great! You can feel it already.

Right, so scalded, half blinded, severely irritated, with no feeling in your tongue or lips, you give yourself a quick look in the mirror and instantly wish you hadn't. Final adjustments done it's time to go.

You've missed your bus, the traffic is terrible, the train is packed to bursting. Now you're really starting to wish it was your day off.

So after all this you make it in to work. Just about. If you just slip in quietly and start no one'll notice. Until the tool who thinks he's being clever shouts:

"Oh, good afternoon, what time d'you call this?"

Now, hey, listen, calm down. We all have to resist the urge to stab this gobshite, every workplace has one, so you're not alone.

But that's it. You're late. Youre day is now completely out of sync. And it's going to feel like you're playing catch up all day. You don't fully wake up and spend the day in a kind of haze. You're easily irritated, and short tempered, wishing they'd all just leave you alone. It's not going to get any better. It never does. So all you can do is try and get through the day.

Most of this happened to me this week. I've had a fairly busy one, with work, setting up my website, and one or two other things I have going on at the moment. We all get mixed up from time to time. There's nothing worse than being late though.

The walk of shame into your workplace, looking, quite literally, like you've just fallen out of bed, carrying a 'not quite right' feeling in your gut. You've had no time to prepare. No chance to psyche yourself up for the day ahead. Your routine disappeared and you're just in a bad mood. Why?

Because you thought you had a day off! 

Are you in tomorrow? Better check.

Cheers!

Dave C. Bannerman.   

Here we go!

So my first website is alive and kicking! It's taken a while to set this up but here it is. I'm still not so sure about the er...pastel purple/pink background though. Anyway, why's this site here?

Because I've recently been told need to organise myself a little bit!

If you've seen the welcome page you'll probably be aware that I write the occasional blog, and take the occasional photograph. I blogged on Wordpress (admittedly not much) and posted my photographic efforts to my facebook page: www.facbook.com/saysathousandwords which you should definately check out, just click the link.

If you'd like to see my blog on Wordpress just click this link: www.davecbannerman.wordpress.com

So why build this website?

Well everything is starting to seem a little bit all over the place. I have blogs here, photo galleries there, and nothing central.

Until now that is!

I've purpose built this website so I can keep everything in one place. All together. Blogs, photographs, and things I'm hoping to add in the future. It'll hopefully make life easier, I'll be able to create more content, and you, you lovely people, will be able to find it and view it quickly and easily with no fuss. That's the theory anyway! I will absolutely keep the Facebook page going going as well as all my other social media stuff

So that's it! Enjoy the site, stick it in your bookmarks, and I'll be posting to Facebook as more content appears.

One last thing, if you're reading this on Wordpress and fancy a glimpse at the  then click the link: www.davecbannerman.com

The site is still a work in progress so bear with me, and check back often!

Dave C. Bannerman

"Well, this is awkward"

I was on a night out recently, getting my groove on and shaking my erm...boo-tay, and something happened which had never happened before. I was recognised by a gentleman who'd recently had surgery at the hospital I work at and had spent some time under my care.

Let's call him Bob, and I'll tell you what happened.

So there I was, doing my impression of an electrocuted chicken. Fully believing of course that I was gods gift to the dancefloor, and Michael Flatly wouldn't stand a chance in a one-on-one dance-off with me, when Bob spots me.

He came over and asked if I was Dave. I, slightly suspicious, said I was. Bob then made things a little clearer by explaining who he was.

Bob, it seems, was a previous patient on my ward.

So me being a compassionate and caring kind of fella, I instinctively asked him how he was doing and before I knew it he was trying to show me his scar.

Now please bear in mind I was on a night out with my girlfriend, we were in a relatively busy nightclub and I wasn't in uniform. Also, the scar from the particular type of surgery Bob had is in quite a... sensitive area. Yet, he proceeded to show me anyway. This made me uncomfortable for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, a fully grown man exposing parts of his body he wouldn't normally expose to another fully grown, and at the moment very hairy, man in a nightclub, while hairy mans girlfriend looks on is giving, absolutely and without question, the wrong impression. Thankfully my girlfriend is in the same line of work as me so completely understood.

Secondly, I wasn't on duty. We'd enjoyed a nice meal and were well on the way to being happily sozzled. I was on a night out. Time away from my job. My time. Our time. The truth is I didn't want to see his scar.

Now if any of that sounds strange to you then it's about to get weirder. But if you're reading this and understanding then see how you feel about this next bit.

Bob, having recognised me, announced who he was, and come within literally millimeters of exposing his backside, offered to buy me a drink. I politely refused his offer. But it only served to send my uncomfortable-o-meter into overdrive. I suddenly had an almost overwhelming urge to drain the drink I had and leave the club.

And I don't know why.

It was a lovely thing to do. I know he was only trying to show his appreciation and express his gratitude but it didn't feel right accepting his offer of a drink.

If you're reading this thinking "weirdo, why not just accept the drink and enjoy it?" then you have a valid point, but let me try to explain.

The first thing I need you to understand is that I wasn't on duty. I know I've said it previously but that's the main point. We were in a nightclub I couldn't fathom why this obviously well-rounded, intelligent, tough-looking guy felt it it necessary to almost drop his trousers in front of me. I was "off the clock" if you like. I was drinking and being my usual suave, spohisticated self. By suave I mean dancing like I had fireants down my trousers, and by sophisticated I mean having to concentrate on getting my drinks in my mouth and not down the front of my shirt, in my hair or anywhere else a drink doesn't belong.

The second thing is... I didn't recognise Bob. I couldn't swear to ever having met him. I can't recall if I accidentally made this obvious. A suspicious look when he said my name, or a blank stare when he told me how he knew me. Had I offended him? Did he believe I should remember him?

I unwillingly found myself in an unenviable position. On one hand I didn't want to offend Bob, had I done so the situation might've gotten out of hand - drink is a powerful and dangerous catalyst. On the other hand I was slightly irritated with the whole sequence of events, and was doing my best to hide it. It's a fine line I was treading and just for an instant I was wishing myself anywhere else.

I suppose I was shocked he remembered me, and was able to pick me out in a dark nightclub. Also, I'm not used to men, particularly men I don't know, showing me parts of themselves in nightclubs. It's a strange little idiosyncrasy I have. I don't like it, and I don't want it to happen.

People in my line of work come into contact with so many people it can get a bit ridiculous. We see hundreds of faces, hear hundreds of names and hear thousands of facts about peoples lives. Ninety-nine per cent of these faces, names and facts don't stick. It's not possible to remember everyone. There are exceptions. A particularly amusing patient, a particularly poorly patient, perhaps one with a big personality, or one who's not particularly pleasant -yes they do exist- or a patient you care for for an extended period. In my particular field though, these exceptions are rare, but they do happen.

But, and here's where I began to maybe understand a little better, for the patient it's potentially (hopefully) a once in a lifetime experience. And it's seldom enjoyable. So that patient is obviously going to remember the person who maybe made them laugh, or sat and chatted with them for a minute, or alleviated a fear or concern they had. So maybe I'd done one of the above or something similar for this patient. But I had no way of knowing because I didn't remember him.

It's not that I didn't appreciate Bob thanking me, or offering me a drink, I did. I thought it was a really nice gesture, but where does it end?

If you work somewhere like a hospital you run the risk of coming into contact with patients outside. But I feel there still needs to be that distance. That separation. It's a tricky gray area that's not really covered by any policy or procedure. Everyone handles it a bit differently. Everyone has different views on it.

If you take care of someone after major sugery you're in a singularly delicate position. You give highly personal care. You help people in ways that mortifies them. You have to be respectful, tactful and above all understanding. You should take an interest in the person. This all helps you to be more effective at your job and give the patient the best care you can.

Getting to know a patients likes and dislikes, their feelings on different things, a little bit of their history. It all helps. I'll give you an example.

One particular patient of mine revealed that he hated the smell of latex gloves. We were discussing cars and how he used them once while working on his engine. He told me the smell on his hands afterwards made him feel queasy. This patient needed help to eat. So, knowing that he didn't like the smell of latex I asked him how he felt about me assissting him to eat his meal without me wearing the gloves. He agreed. Meal enjoyed. No sick bowl necessary.

I only found this out because I saw he had a motoring magazine in his bag and I used that to start a conversation.

"Oh, are you a car man Mr. Smith? What's your favourite? Do you watch motor racing?"

See? It's easy.

But just because the guy dancing with his girlfriend took an interest in you, or the lady at the bar helped you get back on your feet doesn't mean you're friends for life. You needed looking after at that moment, and that person gave you the help you needed and if they were any good, asked certain questions to get the information they needed to look after you properly.

Once you leave the hospital though,  that's it. End of relationship. Don't be offended if they don't remember you. If they see you and recognise you and ask how you are then great, but chances are they probably won't. Because since he helped you that guy dancing like he's got an itch he can't reach has helped a hundred other patients, given a hundred other bed baths, which all mix in with the five thousand he gave before yours. That lady has most likely forgotten all about the help she gave you because she's been busy helping others.

Wondering if I'd offended Bob played on my mind the rest of the night. My job is hard enough, anyone who does it will tell you that. Once we're out of uniform we tend to just let go of it. If we had to remember all of the faces we've cared for in our careers in case we bump into one of them in a nightclub we'd be dribbling wrecks. It's just not possible.

So if you see someone who's looked after you, please, leave them alone unless they recognise you. Show your gratitude another way. Send a card to the ward. Take a box of chocolates in so that the staff can accept your gratitude in the context and environment most comfortable to them. Keep the staff-patient barrier. We need it, because if that barrier comes down... we'd never be off duty.

Of course, everyone thinks differently. You may think I'm being harsh, over sensitive or even a bit of a bastard, but as I've said on this blog in previous posts these are my personal feelings. I would never ignore a patient outside of the hospital, and I do take an interest in how patients get on after their operations, we all do, we like success stories. That doesn't mean we want to drink with them.

So to wrap up I'll leave you with this. Keep it in context. If you see someone who's looked after you think twice before you approach them. If you really must approach them then maybe just smile and say hi, but let us buy our own drinks. You know how hard we work for them!

Cheers all!

Dave C. Bannerman.

The Night Shift

If you're a shift worker, or have been in the past, then this blog will (hopefully) ring true with you. If you're not, and never have been, if you're part of the 9-5 brigade then read on, and spare a thought for that grumpy, bleary eyed, slightly mental-looking person in a uniform you glance at on the the bus. You're traveling to your office, in your suit and tie, all fresh and ready to face the day. But, pull your eyes away from whatever gadget you're engrossed in and look around. You'll generally see at least one. It's normally the one who's yawning and nodding off on the back seat where it's (usually) nice and warm. In most cases that person isn't a fruitloop, that person has probably just finished a night shift, and all they want to do is go home, have a hot drink, and get into bed.  

Working nights is part of any shift workers job, be it permanent on intermittent. Many people work permanent nights, and many people, like me, work them periodically. This blog is based on, and written from, my personal feelings about working nights. Still, I'm sure my feelings and experiences aren't unique. I would like to stress again, just be clear, I'm not a permanent night shift worker.

 

So first thing's first. The strangest thing for me about working nights, and potentially the most obvious for you dear reader is this: You sleep through the day and work through the night! Right away it's unnatural. Human beings weren't meant to work nights. Night time is, or was, for sleeping.

"IF WE WERE MEANT TO WORK NIGHTS,

WE WOULDN'T NEED LIGHTS"

-Anonymous

We live in a 24-hour society now, where we're all starting to get used to supermarkets being open all night for example, but in certain lines of work night shifts have always been there. I'm not going to get into higher arguments about the pros and cons of a 24-hour society. I'll work from one simple premise: Night shifts are necessary. Anywhere that members of the public need to be either looked after or locked up, like hospitals and prisons, as well as infrastructure like the emergency services, travel or construction. Places like factories, shipping offices, newspaper companies, delivery firms, the Post Office and many more. These are the areas of our now 24-hour society you'll find the night shift workers. These, as well as many others have always been 24-hour societies.

You already knew all that though, right? Of course you did, being the intelligent human being you are.

But! If you've never worked through the night, I'm going to try and take you through it. Sitting comfortably? Got a cuppa? Yes? Ok, here we go!

The first thing I want to talk about is the feeling of working nights. Personally, working nights feels totally different than working the day shift. I don't mean in the obvious way, the fact that it's not light outside. I've never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is, but there's a definite difference. It can feel pretty surreal depending on how you prepare, but we'll get to that. For now, just take my word for it, it's different.

I don't know if it's the same for everyone who works nights, but when I work them I don't feel in sync with the rest of the world. There's a feeling of disconnection, like you take a break from life. Strange I know but these are my experiences don't forget. They vary from person to person.

Another thing I find difficult to get used to is having breakfast when almost everyone else is having their evening meal. On the flip side of that, it's an even stranger feeling having cravings for a takeaway and a beer at 8 o'clock in the morning. I generally just settle for toast.

Speaking of food, working nights is usually when you eat more junk food and...well I'm going to say it, crap, than any other time in your working life. You tend to eat a lot of sugar, and most people justify that by saying it gives them the energy they need to get through the shift. Fair enough. Microwave meals or sandwiches are a night staff food-favourite, as well as cakes, chocolate, and crisps. My diet changes radically during my night shifts because the time there's a proper meal available to eat is usually exactly 10 minutes after I've just woken up and can't even look at it nevermind eat it.

But it's not just what you eat, another consideration is how you eat all this stuff that's ultimately really bad for you. Rather than just having one sitting, like you would at home around the dinner table, you graze. Food is picked at all night long, so you usually end up eating three or even four times the amount of junk than you would if you were to sit down and eat constantly for thirty minutes or so.

All this junk food, and for some people unusually high amounts of caffeine, adds to the yucky, uncomfortable feeling of having to stay awakeall night in the first place. Yes, you might get the burst of energy you want or need, but it doesn't last, so to keep it going you eat more junk, and eventually you just end up feeling sick. I am, however, aware that there are some night shift workers who do try to eat healthily, but they still have a go at any goodies left for the staff by a grateful, recently discharged patient and don't let them tell you otherwise.

Ok, let's try something. For the next thirty seconds I want you to close your eyes and think of a hospital.

Hello? Down here! Hi. Did you do it? You probably saw busy waiting rooms, bustling corridors, noise, clatter and activity right? Doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and porters all rushing around quite busy and needing to have finished what they're doing five minutes ago yes? Well, at night, that doesn't happen.

Ok, in some places it does, like A&E departments, but for the most part, a hospital is a completely different place at night. Empty corridors, unmanned desks, no ancillary staff, cleaners, physiotherapists, secretaries, pharmacists, all gone home. For the most part there's only silence. Hospitals at night are quite frankly, very eerie places.

Except...except when there's that particular doctor who insists on wearing his clicky-clacky winkle-pickers. You know the one, he sounds like a tap-dancing baby elephant as he struts down the ward and proceeds to shout instead of speak to the nurses and shows a complete disregard for the ill people who are trying to sleep less than twenty feet away. He clearly either chose the noisiest shoes ever created, and was never told that he has something called in 'indoor voice' and really doesn't need to shout to the nurse sitting three feet away from him because, after all, she isn't deaf, or he's just not particularly well mannered.

Rant over. If you're reading this Dr. Loudmouth Clacky Shoes please sort yourself out.

Ok. Deep breath.

A lot of night shift workers, the permanent ones that is, will often mention the 'wall'. The wall is a point in the night where you are so tired you have to stop for a few minutes. For me this usually happens around 4am but it varies from person to person. If you can make it through this particular event you can look forward to your 'second wind'. Second wind is the term given to that inexplicable burst of energy you get once you get through the 'wall'. Often this burst of energy is accompanied by a type of giddy hysteria, where you will generally find the most ridiculous things ridiculously funny, and some of that energy you've suddenly been granted is dispelled through fits of laughter. I'm not sure if there's a name for this but I quite like the sound of 'funny 5am', so we'll go with that.

After 'funny 5am' it's time to steel yourself and push on with the most difficult part of the shift. The Final Push. 

This is by far the worst part of the shift for me. Summoning up the energy to do all those time-dictated jobs that can't be done before hand, but need doing now. It turns into a race between you and the clock. It happens all of a sudden and if you're not careful, can catch you completely off guard. It's a slog and no mistake.

In the end it comes down to personal preference. Yes, the money can be better on nights and yes, you get more time off depending on how many you work. There are no visitors to deal with, and scans and other procedures are rare, usually only in emergencies. and night shifts tend to run to a little more of a routine than day shifts do. But personally, I prefer days. I'm not built for nights. Nights are for sleeping, and other activities. A list on which work doesn't appear voluntarily.

A colleague of mine put it best this week when she said...

"WORKING NIGHTS IS CRAP"

While I will always do my share of nights along with the rest of the shift-working world, I wholeheartedly agree with what my colleague said, and to be quite honest, I couldn't have put it better myself!

Night all!

Dave C. Bannerman.