Who are you?

Fear not, I’m not about to go all deep on you. But this has been the weirdest 24 hours.

It started with some wooziness at lunchtime yesterday, which is par for the course, but developed into a full blown spin that left me lying prostrate on the floor, thirsty, but unable to get up because everything in the room was moving. Luckily I had my phone, so I called Rhys and half-asked, half-begged him to come home to collect the kids from school.

Half an hour later, Rhys manhandled me and the kids into the car, wise cracking “shall I drive today or you?” and we drove to the doctor’s. Normally I wouldn’t bother seeing the doc, but my nutritionist has suggested I get a blood test to rule out diabetes “just to be sure” and we figured the sooner we got an answer, the better.

We saw a young and rather effete doctor with bright red socks and such a long fringe he had to hold his head on one side to talk to us. He proceeded, with the best of intentions, to utterly bamboozle us with a 10 minute monologue about the science of diabetes. My brain fog ramped up several notches and I just hoped Rhys would take the reins and get this clearly very knowledgeable doc to just bloody well test me. Eventually, a friendly-looking nurse was called in to do a finger prick test and the doc advised me to come back for a follow-up test in the morning.

We picked up the kids from our childminder and came home. It was a pretty ordinary bedtime, until my 6 year old blew me away with a question.  Just before I tucked her in, I asked my usual: “What’s going on in Rosa land? What have you been thinking about today?” Normally I don’t get much back, but last night she looked me in the eye and said “Mummy I’ve been thinking about a really big question”. I sat up, intrigued. She continued: “Who am I?” … pause … “And I don’t mean in the simple easy question Mummy. I mean who am I in the big question. When I’m old, I’ll die, but who are the people who used to be in my family who aren’t here anymore and who are the people who are coming but who aren’t here yet?”

I was in awe and lost for words. I found myself saying something about there being lots of clever people called philosophers who have been asking that big question for a long time and they still haven’t figured out the answer. But she said “Mummy I really want an answer … When I was 4 I had another really big question and I thought about it all the time and when I was 5 I worked it out and I think if we really think about it together we might be able to answer it.”

So I closed my mouth and agreed (silently planning a night on Dr Google).

The postnote to this story is that I went back to the clinic to have my follow-up blood test this morning and the same friendly nurse was there again. I joked with him “What are you doing back at work already?” and he replied “I’m here from 7am to 10pm every day, six days a week”. I was blown away, for a second time. What? How?  As I asked more questions, a fascinating story came out. He’s from Mumbai. His family lives there. He moved to Northern Ireland to work first and then to London. He wants to move home but can’t because he wants to lecture and he can’t do that till he’s finished his PHD. A PHD on top of a 15 hour a day job?! Before I had a chance to ask him what his PHD was about he started talking about his other passion; music. He says he’s a big fan of Bollywood and is composing music to pitch to producers in India.

With his red tunic, name tag and friendly manner Herman is a nurse by day, but his story is so much more than that.

I walked out of that appointment wearing the biggest smile and smiled a little more as I overheard Herman sharing more details with his colleague about his fledgling songwriting career.

I came so close to not finding anything at all out about him. You know the way you normally operate on automatic pilot; exchange some mundane pleasantries and get on with your day. Instead we had a laugh together. It struck me that we’re obsessed in this country, and I know I’m guilty of it, of asking people “What do you do?” As if that’s the thing that defines who we are. But the truth is that often, it’s got bugger all to do with who you are.

What’s the real story?

Who are you?

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