Diary of a Dick Vet

28 December 2008

Snow Hill, Moor Street, New Street

Filed under: EMS, Holidays — Jessica @ 8:46 pm

Greetings. I’ve had a nice few days doing EMS, even if I spend most of my day shoveling poop and walking past scary German shepard dogs. I officially want a dog of my own, although weighing the pros and cons I know that wouldn’t be the wisest things to do.

Here’s what the facility looks like:

To the left: the office and office kennel block. In the centre, the work room. On the left, the grooming room is downstairs, and the extra cattery is on the top.

I haven’t taken many pictures of the kennels, but they’re quite nice: every dog has an indoor space with a bed where they are fed, and a hatch that opens to an individual run. Although it would be nice if they got a bit more exercise, they all seem quite content, and the long-termers are taken for walks in the field behind the kennels.

The field. I enjoy the walks as much as the dogs do.

The field. I enjoy the walks as much as the dogs do.

Some of the owners dropped them off with wrapped presents for Christmas day, so one of the kennel assistants walked around the different blocks and opened the various chew-toys and packets of treats. It’s all quite sweet, even if the dog don’t care that they now have a tartan rope toy.

The catterys (catteries?) are also nice: they’ve just been re-done and are very spacious. Every unit has at least one level for the cats to jump on and corners for the more timid ones to hide. There is an occicat that is so loud you would think it’s in heat, while its companion, a blue British Shorthair, barely budges from its bed and stares blankly at the world. But my favorite cat to watch is Ziggy, the Siamese. I initially thought he was evil, because his eyes would flash yellow, but then after I nervously picked him up and set him on the ground so I could clean his upper level, he climbed up and would not leave me alone. He kept purring and rubbing against me and reminded me that male cats are much more affectionate than people give them credit for.

Ziggy likes to climb the wire mesh.

Ziggy likes to climb the wire mesh.

The house where Im staying. My bedroom is upstairs, in the back, and its very cozy.

The house where I'm staying. My bedroom is upstairs, in the back, and it's very cozy.

Today I had a day off, and I arranged with an old University friend to meet-up in Birmingham. After a few bumps in my journey that led to me arriving 40 minutes late, we found each other and walked around the Bullmarket, which is a huge shopping centre. I tried desperately to find her some cheap-o Uggs rip-offs at Primark (like the UK equivalent of Target, which is not available in Edinburgh) but I was unsuccessful. I did buy a pair of socks to warm up my ice-cold feet and a FIsherman’s scarf for £3 at Primark that is thick and warm and snuggly, but I wish my new loan cheque was in so that I could take advantage of the post-Christmas sales. Shame.

The Bullmarket

The free museum we popped into

Jacke and me. Rarely do I feel short, but I certainly do with her!

Jacke and me. Rarely do I feel short, but I certainly do with her!

It’s back to work for me tomorrow. The weather is in the low to mid-30’s F and there is a chance of snow on Saturday, and it’s actually colder than Edinburgh. I live for a hot mug of tea on my fingers during my breaks. And watching the television in bed in the evening!

25 December 2008

My generic Christmas post…

Filed under: Holidays — Jessica @ 6:18 pm

…is hopefully not too generic.

‘Til today, I had never spent a Christmas away from home. Obviously I would prefer to be with family, but I enjoyed having a British Christmas. Traditionally in England, Christmas lunch is served as 2pm or so with the entire family, but I ate at 4:30pm instead with only my two bosses, since their family are coming tomorrow on Boxing Day and we had to work. Still, they served a full turkey dinner, and were nice enough to get me a little Christmas pudding to pop into the microwave before setting ablaze with brandy. They also had a few Christmas crackers laying around, so they let me help and pop them. I ‘won’ my prize (a keychain pen that doesn’t work - woohoo!) and I told my joke:

What does an angry kangaroo do? Gets ‘hopping’ mad!

Thoroughly British!

I also wore my paper hat. I enjoyed getting to do Christmas the English-way. Hopefully I can return to my terrible American ways next Christmas, but for this year I’m satisfied.

Right now I’m watching The Simpsons and waiting for the folks to come on skype. My hosts are very generous and I’m a bit happy from the wine, so I am laughing a bit louder than normal, but still: I’m glad I have Homer et al. to join me on this Holy Day.

Happy Christmas!

24 December 2008

The visit to Stratford-upon-Avon

Filed under: Holidays — Jessica @ 5:34 pm

I went to Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday. It was a bit odd to be travelling alone, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how much fun my family would have had with me, but I had a lot of fun. Nothing like a bit of an adventure to liven you up.

I took my favourite mode of British transportation: the train. However, unlike my trip to the highlands where I could indulge in the coffee trolley going by as I stared dreamily at the herds of cows and sheep, instead I rode a commuter train through the backsides of working class cities and junkyards. The tenement buildings and hollowed warehouses I saw were something out of A Clockwork Orange or even Jubilee. Increasingly, I come to understand the details of the books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen about the UK. The scenes of economic depression and overcrowding that were once confined to movie worlds in my mind are actual real. It’s hard to tell a country’s natives that certain romantic notions you harboured about their home have recently come crashing down.

But don’t get me wrong: although I saw a lot of remnants of depression, England is inherently beautiful and I have fun exploring it. Stratford-upon-Avon has cultivated a classic ‘English town’ feel and it was really fun to indulge in my tourist tendencies to snap pictures of street corners and buy trinkets. I didn’t allow myself to get lunch from Subway because it was too American, but I did pick up a coffee at Caffe Nero, which is a UK-grown coffee franchise. I bought tea from a little specialist shop in the back courtyard of some buildings off the beaten track, but I also bought a blouse for my Christmas dinner at Marks & Spencer and some shoes at New Look, which are certainly not boutique shops. Stratford-upon-Avon blends small town with big city, but it is still thoroughly British.

But enough contemplative nonsense. I have pictures!

I wanted to take a picture of the countryside that Shakespeare saw. The train didnt afford me the best shot, but some of the forests I passed did let me imagine Willy S riding around on a big horse while wearing silly tights.

I wanted to take a picture of the countryside that Shakespeare saw. The train didn't afford me the best shot, but some of the forests I passed did let me imagine Willy S riding around on a big horse while wearing silly tights.

On the trainride I passed a town called ‘Wootton Wawen.’ I tried so hard to get a picture of the rail sign, because it made me laugh out loud. It sounded like something the priest would say in The Princess Bride: ‘mawwiage, is what bwings us hewe togeweerr, to Wootton Wawen, todayyyy….’

I did get this sign:

The town was decorated for Christmas

The town was decorated for Christmas

The monument to William Shakespeare.

The monument to William Shakespeare.

The house where William Shakespeare was born

The house where William Shakespeare was born

Because I couldnt take any pictures of myself in front of anything, I thought I would provide proof that I was there :)

Because I couldn't take any pictures of myself in front of anything, I thought I would provide proof that I was there :)

The map I bought had a note saying that I could follow a public footpath for a mile to reach Anne Hathaway’s home. Anne Hathaway - the original - was the wife of Shakespeare. There is a reproduction of her home Victoria, British Columbia in Canada that I visited as a teenager with my family. I really, really wanted to see the real version of her childhood home since I was so close, so I decided to walk the path.

I thought that listing a path on a town map would, by the very virtue, make it some charming, well-worn walkway, but is wasn’t anything like that. I followed the little brown arrows to some shabby alleyway and walked for 15 minutes, unsure if I was really going toward a famous cottage or a cess pit where they pushed unsuspecting tourists to their doom. Finally, as I walked behind homes and down unmarked single-lane streets, I saw another little brown sign telling me to keep it up. I followed these random signs until I found a thatched house with a placard letting me know I had arrived.

One of the less shabby bits of path

One of the less shabby bits of path

The cottage was very nice, but surprisingly empty. I stood the tour myself and chatted with the guide, before walking up to the bedrooms to have a look around. At Shakespeare’s home they had militantly forbidden picture-taking (which, of course, I did anyway) but no one seemed to care that I took copious photos of Anne’s digs. When I came down the stairs to the kitchen I had a nice chat with the guide again, and watched as another group of tourists wandered in the front door, but the place was mostly dead. I imagine that an overcast December day, right before Christmas, is not the high tourist season. I should like to come back in the summer, when the gardens behind the home would be in full bloom. Then it would be beautiful.

Anne Hathaways Cottage

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

The best bed

The best bed

The gardens behind the cottage

The gardens behind the cottage

I walked back to Stratford-upon-Avon (after taking a bit of time to find the path back!) and went shopping! I realised that I had only brough scruffy clothes with me in my suitcase, and since I am eating with the family I’m staying with for Christmas I wanted to look nice. It was a good excuse to spend some of my Christmas money on a blue knit top, a cute necklace, and some cheap but very functional flats. That, to me, is a successful trip! I sat down at M&S for a toastie, scone and pot of tea, bought a bottle of wine to bring back to my boss, and when I came outside it was dark, with the town’s Christmas decorations were lit up.

Every street was lit up

Every street was lit up!

I caught the train back and pondered my day. I was very glad to be back at the kennels, where I could upload photos and watch Long Way Round on DVD and 30 Rock on the television while laying in bed.

Happy Christmas Eve!

22 December 2008

Bienvenue a Birmingham

Filed under: EMS — Jessica @ 10:45 pm

I’m in the Birmingham area for EMS now. I’m working at a kennel/cattery through the 5th of January and living on premises with the owners. So far I’m enjoying myself, although the work is a bit strenuous, and it’s always challenging being the newcomer.

Just getting to the town was a struggle. I decided inititally that taking the train would be too much trouble, since it was at least an 8 hour journey with multiple stops. Instead, I decided, I would take the plane and save buckets of time, and even money.

Erm, sort of. I hopped a train down Clerk St to Princes, which was the very beginning of my journey on Saturday morning. It was the day after my exams, and I was still feeling a bit defeated from both test-taking and the stomach flu I had caught. I walked from the bus almost directly onto the airport shuttlebus, which was a rather unpleasant 25 minute ride. Normally I don’t worry about car sickness, but riding the top of a double-decker across Edinburgh with an upset stomach was an unwise decision in hindsight.

I was glad to unload, and even more happy that domestic flight + no checked baggage = easy going at the airport. I hadn’t even considered how crowded it might be with the holidays, but I was lucky enough to spend a brief two minutes at the check-in counter and less than 10 with airport security before practically breezing to my gate. But since it was an airport, and I was an hour early, ‘breezing’ was useless anyway - instead I sat and waited, twiddling my thumbs. I couldn’t eat with my stomach, hadn’t brough anything to read because I only had one severely-overpacked carry-on, and was without company. Boo. Hoo.

When I flew to Edinburgh back in August, by the time I had touched ground in Manchester I thought I was offficially over my fear of flying: after surviving 10 hours in a plane, my piddly 40 minutes podunk flight from Manchester to Edinburgh was severely unimpressive. In the past 5 months I have become a person very different from the one who first landed in Manchester, but at least I can rely on my persistent fear of flying to always follow me. I don’t know why a 55 minute flight was so uncomfortable, but it was enough to make me swear off of plane rides for a bit, save 10 hour endurance trips back to California, where the streets are paved with gold and I am greeted as a hero. (Note to family: this is what I expect next time I fly home, unless they build a train across the Atlantic ocean.)

I landed in Birmingham and unloaded the train on a proper staircase, which just proves that in the UK, everyone is in the Beatles. A shuttle hauled all the passangers and their luggage roughly 100 yards to a shady back entrance to the airport. I call this my VIP service.

I will just ‘breeze’ through the rest (HAHA) of my trip: from Birmingham Intl’ I took the airlink to the train station, took a train to Brimingham, then a train to ‘Smethwick Galton Bridge’ and then a final train to the town near the kennels, where I was picked up by my boss. For those keeping track at home, that is: 1 bus, 1 airport shuttlebus, 1 plane, 1 shady airport tram, 1 airlink, and 3 trains. Total travel time: 5 hours.

I think, however, despite the intricate complexity of my journey, it was ultimately cheaper. And I saved a few hours. Would I do it that way again? Jury is still out. I will say that, although my time on British trains has mostly been pleasant, any activity - other than sleep - prolonged for such a long time would probably make me go crazy. And the children - the children, they don’t need the crazy.

I have the next two days off. I am only 90 minutes from Stratford-upon-Avon, so I will be visiting either tomorrow or the day next. It looks tourist-y, but it’s the friggin’ birthplace of Shakespeare, so it deserves a visit. On the other day I will likely go into Birmingham, which will be mobbed for the holidays, but I can pick up a few things I need and maybe pop into an old church or two, which is my favourite thing to do in European cities anyway.

I’ve only taken a few pictures so far. When I’m back on the schedule I will have to poke around during lunch and snap pictures of some of the animals. So far Smudge, the cavlier king charles and Holly the collie (chortle) are my favourites.

This has been quite long (winded) but I suspect I will be back soon to overshare again.

16 December 2008


Filed under: Updates, Vivre ma vie — Jessica @ 12:55 pm

I’ve never been a ‘girly girl’ really. I don’t know if I would call myself a tomboy, but growing up I was definitely uninterested in clothes. My wardrobe was a pair of bootcut jeans, tennis shoes, and a boy’s shirt with some pseudo-vintage design or my favourite band on the front. In addition to not being very ‘girly’ I’m also heavy, so I was quite content to hide under my baggy clothes.

My last year in University, for reason I can’t really pinpoint, I decided it was time to start paying a bit more attention to my dress. I bought flats instead of tennis shoes, experimented with eye make-up, and wore fitted tee-shirts. I am a late bloomer for a lot of things, so I basically went through my teenage years at 21-years-old. Better late than never, eh? Plus, wearing shirts that didn’t allow me to hide my shape forced me to feel more comfortable with myself, which was definitely a positive thing.

The point being, that I recieved a package in the mail today full of Christmas gifts from my family, and when I read the customs label and saw that my mom had declared ’shoes’ I started freaking out. Shoes! I’m getting new shoes! Some of the shapes of my gifts give away what they might be and I am excited, but: I. Am. Getting. Shoes!

I think I may have let my ‘girly’ side out.

PS Thanks for the gifts, family!

15 December 2008

Summerhall Christmas 2008

Filed under: Exams, Holidays, Lulz — Jessica @ 4:15 pm

It’s tradition at the Dick Vet for first year students to decorate Summerhall’s entry for Christmas. Because I’m a GEP and not a true 1st year I didn’t get to participate, but I still get to enjoy how festive the place looks on my way to the library to study.

The Christmas tree. Those boxes are empty, of course.

The Christmas tree. Those boxes are empty, of course.

The main staircase. Close enough to Harry Potter, eh?

The main staircase. Close enough to Harry Potter, eh?

A festive chain on your way out of Summerhall

A festive chain on your way out of Summerhall

I was reading a bit of All Creatures Great And Small this morning over breakfast (mmm, pancakes!) and James Herriot was describing the various muscles and blood vessels he was cutting through and around in the neck of a cow on his way to opening a postpharyngeal oesophageal cyst, and I knew what he was talking about! Well, mostly. It reminded me that I needed to study even more, but it also reminded me of why I’m studying vet med in the first place - so I can poke at cow necks, of course.

13 December 2008


Filed under: Updates — Jessica @ 2:11 pm

This blog uses gravatars, which are universal pictures linked to your email address that show up whenever you comment next to your name. A lot of blogs use them, so if you would like one, here’s how it goes:

1. Go to http://www.gravatar.com

2. Use the same email you usually leave when commenting on blogs (if you have multiple emails)

3. Follow the instructions on the website

4. My blog has gravatars set to a PG rating, so keep ‘em clean

5. Next time you comment here, be sure to use the email linked to your gravatar, and your image should show up instantly when your comment is approved!


12 December 2008

I want one!

Filed under: Lulz — Jessica @ 10:03 pm

Today’s totally useless-yet-oh-so-awesome cute pet video is:

I know it’s been making rounds on the internet, but if you hadn’t seen it yet, you just got lucky :)

Study time

Filed under: Exams — Jessica @ 12:44 pm

Back at my old university, I was part of an online community for students. Every time around finals, it was tradition to post pictures of your study space. Maybe it’s the busybody in me, but I always liked seeing how other people study. I took a few pictures of my desk, covered in notes, so your inner busybody can enjoy.

This picture is pretty unusual, because there is no mug full of tea or cup of water to be seen. I always have at least one (usually both) on my desk at all times.

This picture is pretty unusual, because there is no mug full of tea or cup of water to be seen. I always have at least one (usually both) on my desk at all times.

It seems I get most of studying done if I move my laptop away from me. That way I can keep my music on, but I cant quickly pop my ethernet cable in to look something up on the internet - which always seems to lead to about 30 minutes of browsing time. Such a time waster!

It seems I get most of studying done if I move my laptop away from me. That way I can keep my music on, but I can't quickly pop my ethernet cable in to look something up on the internet - which always seems to lead to about 30 minutes of browsing time. Such a time waster! Also, if you were interested in my deoderant brand of choice, now you know!

I just need to get through my notes on glucagon and I am done with endocrinology. I wish I had time to go over it a third time before the exam. I am starting to feel pressure, which ain’t good for my brain. Also, why did the university schedule a 3-hour tutorial the Friday before an exam?! No rest for the weary.

11 December 2008

Exam week

Filed under: Exams — Jessica @ 8:56 am

I have been in ‘exam mode’ for the past few days, and I am already burned out. In a way, it’s good that I’m studying until I get a headache, because even though the headache forces me to stop, at least I know I studied as much as I physically can. Then I go to bed early (11pm!) and sleep in (8am!) and although I still want to crawl into my bed and curl up and disappear, at least I have enough energy to haul my butt to my desk and pick over some notes. There’s just no motivation there.

It’s also an expensive time of the semester. Because I get my best studying done at the University’s library which is a 20 minute walk, I basically have to buy all my meals. I eat cheaply, and hopefully healthily, but I still feel like I am burning through cash. I think that may just be the effect of the Holiday season in the first place.

Anyway, I need to get moving. I need to send a package off, then go start my tea-induced caffeince high and learn about endocrinology. My brain is fried just thinking about it.

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