Tuesday, 2 November 2021

"A very powerful and much-needed addition to the library of pain-related literature"

I was delighted to meet Dr Deepak Ravindran last month as part of the Flippin' Pain community outreach
tour of Lincolnshire. I'd read his excellent book The Pain-Free Mindset: 7 Steps to Taking Control and Overcoming Chronic Pain this summer and thoroughly enjoyed its accessible and digestible mix of pain science and common-sense advice. Dr Ravindran is consultant pain specialist with Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation and has many years experience of helping patients (like me) to cope better with chronic pain. 

So, as a patient, I thought I'd offer him the chance to read my patient's-eye book on the subject, Where Does It Hurt? This is what he had to say... 

Reading the biography of someone with lived experience of pain is always a honour because it gives us the opportunity to look behind the curtain of someone who looks 'normal' to the rest of the world but is living with an invisible illness that can easily prevent them from living their lives to the full.

Tim Atkinson shows the unique issues of a lived expert in pain management in this book. An accomplished writer, he uses his diagnoses and management of his psoriatic arthritis to chart the difficult and time-consuming journey while observing the unique eccentricities and foibles of primary and secondary medical care with a great sense of humour and liberal references to other major writings.

Tim takes us on a journey through the most common treatments offered for pain management in the UK with a scenic detour through their history and an explanation of how they came to be. I found the chapter on history of opioids, mindfulness and BDSM particularly fascinating. He has also been able to present the newer understanding in a simplified and easy-to-grasp manner and as a clinician, I found seeing how a patient is able to distil and present the new complex science of pain processing very useful.

Ultimately, Tim talks about expectations and understanding the power of taking back control and agency as being key to manage and overcome pain. He has tried a variety of therapies and comes away with that powerful message that the language of pain needs changing. Even more important is the belief and ability to take control and do something about  pain rather than being a passive recipient of healthcare. Coming from a patient advocate who lives with pain, that is a very powerful and much needed message to everyone who suffers from chronic pain. 

Thank you, Tim, for writing this book. It is a much needed addition to the growing library of pain related literature for patients and healthcare professionals.

Monday, 4 October 2021


I don't often post about the Great War anymore. But it has not lost its fascination!

Today is World Architecture Day and it's an appropriate time to consider the enormous achievement of the Great War's chief architect, Edwin Lutyens. Famous, of course, for designing the Cenotaph in Whitehall, Lutyens had been involved since before the war's end with plans for its commemoration, and plans to the remembrance of the war dead. 

On a trip to France and Flanders in 1917 Lutyens spoke about the  "the ribbon of isolated graves like a milky way across miles of country where men were tucked in where they fell." Those haphazard battlefield burials would be tidied into the great military cemeteries we know today and in many, there be be a white stone altar (known, non-liturgically as the Stone of Remembrance) inscribed with the words (chosen by Kipling) "Their Name Liveth For Everymore".

Both the Stone (relatively small, at 12ft long and 4ft high) and the Cenotaph (over 30ft high) are built using the ancient architectural principle of entasis, used in the building of monument like the Parthenon.  What this means is that neither the horizontal nor the vertical surfaces are truly straight: they taper, imperceptibly, according to mathematical calculations that were apparently so complicated they covered 30 pages of Lutyens notebooks!

To the naked eye, the lines look straight. But they curve, very slightly and if you were to continue the vertical lines of either the Stone or the Cenotaph they would form a great arc meeting 1000ft above the ground. The horizontal lines, meanwhile, would extend to form a circle whose centre would be 900ft below ground.

It's a subtle effect that gives both monuments a sense of hidden grandeur and a connection with the eternal. If you've ever stood and wondered just what it is about such otherwise plain, straightforward monuments that makes them so impressive, entasis could be the answer. 

Monday, 9 August 2021

Philip Larkin reads Aubade

Philip Arthur Larkin, Hull University's librarian and one of the finest poets in the English language, was born on this day in 1922. To mark the occasion here's the man himself reading what is probably his greatest poem, a meditation on the "unresting", unrelenting approach each day of death. 

Yes, cheery stuff. But that was what he was like. And it takes a special sort of courage, I think, to stare down death like this, not to hide or dissemble or mythologise... just stare, stare at the "awful emptiness for ever" without flinching. It's a beautiful poem and that's another of Larkin's great strengths: making something memorable, and beautiful, out of something otherwise unutterably awful.


Saturday, 24 July 2021

A Northern Light

The chances of finding an article you've written published on the very day you're visiting the town in question must be pretty remote, I'd have thought. The chances of then seeing it while casually browsing in a newsagents are pretty low too, especially when it's tucked away on page 58!

We visit Ripon regularly and I'd often thought I ought to write about this small, overlooked part of Yorkshire. The cathedral hasn't got the scale and grandeur of nearby York Minster; Nidderdale is hardly known compared to neighbouring Wensleydale and Swaledale. 

But Ripon is a forgotten gem among English towns (a city, really, having a Royal Charter dating from the ninth century) and it deserves to be better known. Just not too much better known... after all, one its many charms is its tranquility. 

Anyway, if you fancy a read, here's the link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/escape/article-9820837/UK-staycation-joys-Ripon-one-Englands-oldest-smallest-tranquil-cities.html

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