Posted in Books, Paranormal, Reviews, romance

Book Review: The Silent – Elizabeth Hunter

You know a book is good when you wake up at 6am on a Saturday (your day off) to read it and then find yourself finishing in four hours.

This book is number 5 in The Irin Chronicles and tells the story of Leo, one of the Istanbul scribes and Kyra, one of the kareshta or silent ones. The kareshta are daughter of the Fallen, angels who have defied The Creator and made earth their own personal playground. Their lust for power among mortals led to their banishment from heaven. Most are evil creatures who do not teach their children how to control their magic. Their male offspring, called Grigori, become predators whose lust for any human contact frequently lead to deaths for any female they encounter. Grigori are turned into their sire’s soldiers and are helpless to resist their sire’s commands. The kareshta are not valued as much as the Grigori. Most are killed because they are considered worthless. Those that live have learned to be silent because their voices are part of the unknown and are therefore feared. 

At the end of the previous books, some of the Fallen have been reconciled to heaven leaving their sons and daughters free to live their lives for the first time. Most struggle to integrate into the Irin society because of the long, painful history they share. Some of the kareshta are mated with Irin scribes who have been deprived of any female contact for so long. Some try to live in the human world after they’ve been taught to control their ability to hear soul voices. Its againts this turbulent background that Leo and Kyra’s relationship is forged and tested. 

Leo and Kyra were part of the supporting characters in the previous books so its really hard to follow their story if you haven’t read the other books, I would never classify this as a standalone book because a reader who reads this first would be depriving themselves of a lot of history. That being said, I think this story is the start of a whole new series told about the sons and daughter of the Fallen. We learn so much about the Grigori here, and though they’ve done unspeakable and unforgivable things in their past we also get their backstory in this book. I think its so easy to hate something that you don’t understand, and that sentiment is very relevant in these troubled times we’re living in. So much violence stems from so little understanding that underneath all the differences, we are all the same.

A twist of fate and an unwanted inheritance is all that separates the Grigori from the Irin. This is the point that Kyra was trying to make when she was fighting for acceptance and integration into the community, rather than just tolerance. I think Elizabeth Hunter did a fantastic job of building this world and developing different narratives that she has easily set herself up for at least three more books in this world. I cannot wait for the Grigori to start falling in love. This is just me, I really like imperfect men who struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds to remain good.

The love story itself was also great but the romance alone would never have held this book up. It was an adventure from start to finish and the exotic locations make me think the Elizabeth must have gone on a trip to Southeast Asia in which case I hope she visited the Philippines. Dare I hope there will be a story set in my home country? One can dream.

Anyway, great story and a great addition to the series! Looking forward to whatever Elizabeth decides to write next.

Posted in Books, Classic Literature, Reviews

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

If I cannot inspire love, then I shall cause fear.

Thus spoke Frankenstein’s monster, one of the most well-known “villains” of our time. This story has been adapted for television and the big screen so many times and has become such a big part of popular culture that I think the essence of what Mary Shelley intended the story to be about has been lost.

I have to admit that I always thought of Frankenstein as a comedic horror story but that’s maybe because in my head I get the monster confused with Lurch from the Addams Family (you raaannngggg?). 

But its actually a story about accepting your place in the world and being careful about tampering with the natural order of things.

Victor Frankenstein led a relatively happy life in Switzerland, where the story is set, and was on course to have a life of love and contentment. He had a lover in the form of his cousin, a doting father, two brothers, good friends, anything a man could wish for to be settled and happy. As fate would have it, he was sent to Ingolstadt to study and it was there that his curiosity (and later all-consuming passion) for science was developed. He began his experiments based on the theories he read about in books and made a breakthrough when he managed to galvanise a “being” that he constructed from bits and pieces of human parts. When he actually beheld the fruits of his labours, he was filled with so much horror at the monster he created that he ran away and turned his back on this being.

The monster, feeling rejected and all alone, developed a hatred for all of mankind. There was a chapter or two devoted to his side of the story. He relates how he first learned to separate his senses, his first observations of humans and their complex relationships, his desire to be part of a wider community, the pains he took to learn the language so that he can express his desire to be loved despite the barrier created by his monstrous appearance; and then he relates how each rejection served to turn his love into hatred and then finally the need to inflict pain and have his revenge.

There is a subtext here about judging people by their appearances. The tale can be interpreted as  a rebuke for all those who don’t look beyond the surface or the superficial and as such, miss a person’s true character. Its almost as if Mary Shelley is suggesting that society, by shunning this “monster” and not giving him a chance is the ultimate cause in making him a monster in the first place. The old nature vs nurture argument can be rehashed here: was he truly evil or did the lack of guidance and companionship perpetuate that evil? If he had been accepted into society, if Victor had taken part in his “upbringing” would things have turned out differently? We’ll never know. 

The book is tragic. There is no happy ending here and I’m sorry if that’s a spoiler, but seriously, this is a miserable cautionary tale about what happens when man overreaches. 

How much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow

I am a product of the 21st century and I am grateful for everything that scientific discoveries have allowed us to enjoy: advances in communication so that I can regularly talk to my mother when she’s half a world away, the internet, medicine, all the daily conveniences that we take for granted- we have all this  because some men aspired to greatness. However, I can’t help but agree that everything is happening too fast and the world is developing at such a rapid pace that we never really stopped to think about the repurcussions. Or the price we’ve paid in the name of science.

Ultimately, as our friendly neigbourhood Spider-Man would say, with great power comes great responsibility. Anything can be destructive if used in excess and if used for evil instead of good. The same technology that gives fuel to the world can also be used to annihilate it. It all comes to down to the will of man, and that’s a scary thought because I don’t think we’re ready for that kind of responsibility. You don’t need to look any further than North Korea for proof of that. Victor Frankenstien warns us of the same; he destroyed his work because no one is ready for that kind of knowledge. He’s seen what it can do and would rather not be the cause of any suffering. 

The book was engaging, well-written and appropriately paced. It dragged a little bit in the middle but that’s my own personal taste talking because I’ve never been one to appreciate extensive descriptions of nature. I prefer dialogue more than scenery, to be honest. Overall though, I’m glad I was finally able to read this story in its entirety. Four stars! 

Posted in Careers, london, Medical, Nursing

Chronicles of a theatre nurse: Chapter Two – Periacetabular Osteotomy and Hip Preservation

I was researching some images and videos over the weekend for a presentation that I had to do at work when I came across this video. Watching it and hearing testimonials from patients that have had their quality of life improved by this procedure really highlights everything about my work that I’m proud of. I also have a blink-and-you’ll-miss appearance on it! 

I’ve worked with Mr. Witt since I started at UCLH . I did his list twice a week every week during my first 18 months and I can really say that he’s one of the best surgeons I’ve ever met. He’s very precise and meticulous about his work. As his nurse, I find his list a challenge to manage because there are so many things to organise. Surgeons are also creatures of habit; they like consistency in the people they work with and they like their tools about them when they do their work. And you can’t really blame them because what they do is so complex, the best ones just make it look easy.

I remember when we did this video and others like it. There are usually surgeons from other hospitals watching, as Mr Witt is one of the few surgeons in London to do this kind of procedure. They called him an actor’s actor because even those surgeons aim to learn from him to improve their own technique. I have to say that I often forget that because of the stress of running his list. I forget how much of a privilege it is to see him in action. This video has reminded me why, even though I do a lot of admin now, I still make it a point to scrub for him when I can.

The procedure itself is incredibly amazing. Watch the video for a better understanding but essentially it aims to help people with developmental dysplasia, a condition in which the ball of your hip does not fully fit into the socket (acetabulum) causing it to displace; eventually these abnormal movements will cause arthritis, pain and later on, the need for a hip replacement using a prostheses.

A hip replacement, as I understand it, is not the best option for young people and that’s where PAO has helped a lot. I think the idea is to prevent the need for a THR later on in life by correcting the problem with the socket. It really is an amazing surgery. Pause it at the part where the scrub nurse is passing instruments and you’ll see me in action! 

This video has filled me with inspiration to tackle the work week again. I will remind myself of this feeling the next time I have to scramble for sets or wear a heavy lead gown for 8 hours. Or the next time someone asks me to call Interserve to turn down temperature in theatres. 😉

For more information about some of the surgeries we do, visit Mr. Witt’s website.

Posted in Careers, Medical, Nursing

Chronicles of a theatre nurse: Chapter One – A day in the life

Ok, so anyone who knows me knows that I have an aversion to seeing myself on film. Photo? Sure. I’ll jump in front of a camera and strike a pose. But live action video? Aghhh. I can’t.

About 2 years ago, one of our anaesthetists asked if I could be in this short film they were doing so that people would know what its like working in our operating theatres – the highs, the lows, the challenges we face and ultimately, why we love it so much. I have to say I’ve never seen this video in its entirety. My boss recently re-posted it as part of a recruitment drive. I cringed at the thought of watching it but its actually quite good. My part in it was “engaging” and you could apparently tell I really enjoy what I do.

If I had to do this video now, would my answers be any different? Probably. Being in education poses a whole new challenge but it also comes with the sweetest rewards. One of my students just got her pin last week making her a qualified practitioner after three long years of hard work. I have another three graduating in October. Two of the staff I helped train for orthopaedics are now doing really well. There’s so much that we’ve achieved as a team and I’m so proud of the work that we do. I have that now on top of the clinical aspects which I do still love. 

Working in theatres is exciting. You never really know what your day is going to be like. You depend a lot on other people because surgery is a team effort. And I like that, I like the camarederie and rapport that comes when team members work regularly with each other. I love that I can have a laugh even when its a stressful day; I love that I’m not facing the challenges alone because I always have a team with me, both clinical- and education-wise.
Enjoy this video, blabbaholics! 

Posted in Filipino, friendship, london

The lost art of speaking your mind

I should add a disclaimer and say that this will probably be an unpopular post. It will also be an honest one. Recent events in my life have just inspired me to write about something that I’ve been meaning to speak my mind on for a long long time. 

Its my opinion that culturally, Filipinos have always struggled to speak up for themselves. I think in our country we’ve learned to just shut up and get on with things no matter how much we struggle because speaking up never changed anything anyway. In addition, I think we’ve always been afraid of open confrontation. For us, talking to a person about an issue or concern is often seen as being aggressive. 

The result is this passive-aggressive way of “fighting back” wherein we say nothing but we’re secretly fed up and furious, and rather than confronting the person involved, we go around talking to everyone else EXCEPT the person who should have been confronted in the first place.

I see this a lot whenever a group of Filipinos gather, both here in the UK and at home. If John had a problem with Paul, he would talk ABOUT him to every Tom, Dick and Harry but he wouldn’t actually talk TO Paul. Which doesn’t make sense because how would Paul even know there’s a problem if no one tells him?! 

Being honest with another person is scary as hell. You’re making yourself vulnerable, and you’re putting your relationship with that person on the line because you never really know how people will receive your honesty. I get it. Sometimes its easier to brush it under the rug, or vent your frustration by talking to other people and hope that the issue goes away. In the long run though, how healthy do we really think that is? Does it really solve anything?

The thing I like about being in the UK and being exposed to different cultures is that you learn so many things, and one of the most important skills I’ve learned is how to handle difficult conversations and how to resolve a conflict. I don’t just mean at work but in general as well. A little bluntness goes a long way. I used to be afraid of people who wouldn’t think twice about giving their opinion or saying what they really think but I’ve really come to value the people in my life who will say things TO MY FACE rather than talk about me behind my back. 

I don’t mean that we should all jump at the smallest issue and create a fuss. But we need to realise that we are all entitled to say what’s on our minds as long as we respect that the other person has that right too. Imagine if you’re having a conversation and you disagree about something that the other person said. What is so wrong about saying ‘I hear you, I get your side, but my opinion is this and this, what do you think?’ Or when someone has said something hurtful, what’s wrong with saying ‘hey, can we talk about when you said this and this. It just really hurt my feelings and I’d like to know why you said it.’ Or if you don’t like something, just say it. If you need help, don’t pretend to be all-knowing because there is absolutely no shame in admitting that you’re struggling with something. ASK FOR HELP.

We overcomplicate things when we don’t say the things we should at the moment when they should be said. We involve a bunch of people that should never have been involved in the first place because we’re too much of a coward to confront the person we should be confronting. This is all the more true when we’re dealing with friends. 

It is so much harder to admit that a friend has hurt you compared to a colleague or an acquaintance. But true friendship can withstand a little honesty, I think you can only grow as friends if you deal with issues as they arise. I once had exactly 100 minutes of phone conversation with my friend Dengei so we could mend our friendship and now we’ve been close friends for more than 10 years. 

My friend Christine once sent me a really hurtful email when we were 18 or 19 outlining the many ways that I have hurt her and my response was to not confront it and avoid her. Thank goodness our friendship meant enough to her that she initiated a conversation where she explained that all she really intended was for me to know her feelings, not to end our friendship. Its been 12 years since that incident and she was and still is one of my best friends, and we laugh about her “hate mail” from time to time. The strongest friendships I had are ones where I always know where I stand. 

I’ve digressed a little bit. 

Seriously though, one of the things I’ve reflected on this week is about being honest and upfront with other people. I hate that backbiting and gossiping about people behind their back is so entrenched in our culture, and I include myself in that number. The one thing that I try to do though is self-check and self-regulate: I never say anything about a person behind their back that I’m not comfortable saying to their face. If that’s weak, I’m sorry but its all I got. 

So let’s all learn to be a bit more honest and speak our minds as appropriate. We save ourselves a lot of stress, frustration and misunderstanding that way. 

Posted in fitness, Lifestyle, london

5 Life Lessons That I Learned From Muay Thai 

We’ve come to the end of the week and despite my busy schedule I managed to squeeze in two muay thai training sessions this week, and I am damn proud of myself *pats myself on the back* 

I really feel the difference between a week where I’ve not trained at all and a week where I’ve trained at least once. You would think I’d be less stressed and less tired when I’m not training but I’ve actually been more tired. Its also interesting to note that I’m also more irritable, less patient and more likely to respond negatively to stress when I don’t workout for the week. I’ve come to realise that the things I learn during muay thai training also translates into life lessons that I can apply in daily life, and its what keeps me balanced and centered. Here are some of the things I’ve learned this week.

1. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.

Training sessions, especially one-to-one sessions, are not cheap. But as my coach says, you’re investing in your health and body. All that money you’re spending on wine and beer and I don’t know, Chinese takeaway could all be put to better use if you save it to invest in training. And honestly, it cost me maybe two or three extra shifts, and maybe a weekend shift. But its so worth it. Its like with anything else in life, you will find a way to achieve the things that are important to you. If you’re not motivated to work hard for something,  you might want to ask whether you really want it and if its something that you should be doing. 

2.The best fighters are also the most intelligent 
I’ve come to a point in my training where I don’t just practice the technique but we also sometimes do touch sparring and drills where I have to find my shots and really think about how I can do the most damage to my opponent. I also have to have the presence of mind to remember to defend against my opponent and to use everything I have to block the other person’s shots. I’m surprised about how much mental activity is involved; it makes training more challenging but also more fun. Its like at work: doing something that mentally stimulates me, such as learning a new procedure or teaching a new starter, are the things that are most rewarding.

3. Anything worth doing is worth doing right

Its not enough to just go through the motions of punching or kicking, you have to do the proper technique and you have to commit to it and give it everything you’ve got. I used to just punch to hit the pad. But my coach said I have to imagine that the pad is an apple, and I want to punch through it to get to the core. I think my punches have really been connecting more ever since we did that little exercise.

So if I’m doing something in life, I’m going to do it the way I punch. I will commit to what I’m doing: ‘just okay’ is not good enough. It has to be right and I have to know that I gave it my best shot.

4. Its what you do when it starts to hurt that matters 
I’ve paraphrased what is apparently a quote from Mohammed Ali when he was asked about how many sit-ups he can do in one sitting. He answered that he doesn’t know because he only starts counting when it starts to hurt. At the end of my training session on Thursday, just when I thought it was over and I was home-free my coach asked me to do 30 sit-ups. And when I’ve finished that after nearly dying, he quoted Mohammed Ali and asked if I had it in me to do 10 more. How in the world do you say no after that?! So I did it. I managed to reach deep into myself and found my last bit of strength to do 10 more, and I was more proud of those 10 sit-ups than anything else I did that day. 

Its like everything else in life. You will get tested, you will face challenges and some of them will seem insurmountable. But that’s when it starts to count. What you do when the going gets rough is the true measure of your strength. So dig deep, and find the will to do just a little bit more.

And finally…

5. Always remember to breathe

Its such a small thing but it makes all the difference. We are encouraged to make sounds during training, and I’ve always felt really self-conscious about it. But I’ve come to realise just how much it helps my breathing. When I’m doing rounds I sometimes forget to breathe, and that’s when I get tired. I have to remember to breathe, slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth. I’ll be okay if I just remember to breathe and be centered.

When my life is in chaos, both personally and professionally, I sometimes do so much and get so stressed out that I forget to breathe. Its when I stop to calm myself that I’m able to see through the problem to a possible solution. Breathe. It makes all the difference.

Posted in Careers, Nursing

Blood is thicker than water: things I learned from mentoring my sister

18 months ago, my sister moved to London to work at the same hospital as I do and I could not have been more chuffed. In the months before she arrived, all I could talk about was my sister and how excited I was for her to join us. And when she did arrive, I went around introducing Arlene to anyone and everyone. For weeks every time I see someone the first words out of my mouth would be “have you met my sister?” Now that would be fine if Arlene loved being the center of attention (like her big sister lol) but she’s not: she’s a bit shy and reserved when it comes to people she doesn’t know well and she doesn’t let people in easily (unlike me, who’s Ms Congeniality). Although we share the same interests, we are as different as two people could be.

I’ve been teaching my sister as far back as when she was still studying at uni. I started my teaching career as a clinical instructor in the Philippines and my sister was one of my students. It was awkward as hell, but also a lot of fun. Of course I had to be careful to be professional and impartial, and for the most part I achieved that. It was also good that my sister was not a problem student; in fact I think that while academically I got better grades, skills-wise and clinical-wise my sister is the better nurse. 

But that was school, where I had authority and she HAD to listen to me. Things are not quite the same when you’re colleagues. 

A couple of months ago, we were so short of practitioners for my speciality that it became imperative for me to train and develop a couple of people who had potential, my sister included. Arlene didn’t think she could do orthopaedics and left to her own devices I don’t think she would have made that choice voluntarily. However, I was always of the opinion that my sister doesn’t give herself enough credit; she is capable of anything if she puts her mind to it, all she needs is confidence. And practice. And perhaps someone to nudge her (some people would say I push but WHATEVER). And so started her career in orthopaedics, which, as everyone knows is my second all-consuming passion (career-wise anyway).

Its been an experience mentoring Arlene in orthopaedics. It felt a lot like supporting a child through a piano recital or something. There’s a reason why they call the operating room a “theatre” because it has all the elements of a performance. The surgeons and the scrub nurses put on gowns, gloves and mask (costumes!), there’s music in the background, and for me even after all these years I find it so exciting. I’m lucky enough to be in a speciality that I genuinely love. And I want my sister to love it as much as I do so I guess sometimes I get a little bit overeager. Here are some of the things that I’ve realised over the past couple of weeks working with Arlene.

There will be arguments.

This is unavoidable. Arlene is the quieter of the two of us but don’t let that deceive you. She’s strong willed and she’s got a mind of her own. So when two really strong personalities come together, clashes are inevitable. Yesterday just in the amount of time it takes to prepare for the surgery, at least three arguments and one semi-shouting match may or may not have occured in the prep room. 

I will become a stage mother.

Like I said, its like watching your kid do a piano recital. You get so anxious, and every time they miss something you feel it. You take criticisms against them personally. I have to watch myself constantly from putting too much pressure on my sister. I constantly have to readjust my expectations so that I don’t get too frustrated. Or you know, try to leave her training to someone else and not get too involved because there is NO WAY I can be detached or impartial if its a combination of Arlene and orthopaedics.

Teaching requires commitment. And you gotta love it. 

This is true of anyone I teach, regardless of whether I’m related to them or not. People don’t realise how much of myself I give when I decide to teach or train someone. Sometimes during my free time I find myself thinking of creative ways to get people to learn, or when I see something on the telly or read something from a book I immediately think about whether its something I can apply as an educator. You spend two hours every day on a one-to-one basis with these people trying to support them, giving them feedback and encouragement, helping them improve…it takes a lot out of you. But I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I’ve always loved to teach. That lightbulb moment when someone finally gets it is worth everything to me.

It will be worth it.

This week my sister scrubbed for a total hip replacement on her own for the first time, and she did marvelously. One month ago she was struggling to even understand the concept; as recently as two weeks ago she could barely muster up enthusiasm for the speciality. Last night she was enthusiastic and excited about it; it was the most animated I’ve seen her since we started this. It felt great to be sharing something that I love doing with someone I love.

At the end of the day, we will still be sisters.


There is something to be said for having a colleague who’s also family. You can always rely on unconditional love from a family member, they’re obligated to love you even when you annoy them to death. Blood is always thicker than water. 

To Arlene, I am so proud of everything you’ve achieved and everything you’re still trying to achieve. Love you shob, please continue to cook me dinner. Lol