WAK­ING HOURS

Pixie McKenna

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - SHUTTERBUG - In con­ver­sa­tion with Emily Hourican

Iget up at 5.45am, be­cause we live in Cam­bridge, and nor­mally I have to go into Lon­don. I hate rush­ing in the morn­ing. I like to have time to sit down, have a se­ri­ously large amount of tea, and then get my clothes ready. I never get any­thing ready the night be­fore, be­cause

have this idea that if I died in the night, I’d have wasted 20 min­utes. In­stead, I run round the house first thing, swear­ing and try­ing to force legs into tights, find knick­ers, and so on. My hus­band is not a morn­ing per­son, so I haven’t got a stitch of cloth­ing in the bed­room. Oth­er­wise, I would be try­ing to work my way through the wardrobes in the pitch black, be­cause I can’t turn a light on, as he’s asleep.

I never have break­fast, un­less I have a hang­over, or I’m stay­ing in a ho­tel. Oth­er­wise, I just have about two pints of builder’s tea with milk. And jeep­ers, I know break­fast is the most im­por­tant meal of the day! But like all doc­tors, I don’t prac­tise what I preach. Darcy is nor­mally up about 7am, and I’m out the door by 7.15am, so I see her be­fore I go off to the sta­tion on my bike. I get the train into Lon­don, and I work. It’s a 45-minute jour­ney, and I get a lot done on the train. I’m a very last-minute sort of per­son, so usu­ally I will be try­ing to fin­ish some­thing, like a quote, or a piece for the pa­per.

I work in Har­ley Street, and I usu­ally walk from the sta­tion; it takes about half an hour. I usu­ally do two or three days of clin­ics a week. My of­fi­cial days are Tues­days and Wed­nes­days; I start work at 9.30am, and I fin­ish at 5pm. I work in pri­vate prac­tice, and I feel very priv­i­leged to do so, be­cause, while my job doesn’t pro­duce zero stress, I look at my col­leagues in the UK and in Ire­land who are in pub­lic prac­tice, and they are be­ing asked to do more, with less resources. I don’t have that prob­lem.

I have a dif­fer­ent prob­lem, which is telling peo­ple that they don’t need the things they think they need. It’s a dif­fer­ent agenda. If money is no ob­ject, and ac­cess to ser­vices is no ob­ject, peo­ple want more and more. And what they want isn’t nec­es­sar­ily what they need. They want more health screen­ing, to op­ti­mise their health. I’m all in favour of screen­ing for com­mon things, but I am re­ally against look­ing for trou­ble. Check the big­gies — heart dis­ease, blood pres­sure, blood sugar, do your screen­ing for your women’s bits, and then let it go.

Some­times peo­ple have symp­toms for which we don’t have an ex­pla­na­tion. Once we’ve checked that there isn’t any­thing sin­is­ter go­ing on, then, some­times, you have to live with things. No­body is per­fect — you can have a creak or an ache or a drip here and there; some­times you’ve just got to suck it up and get on with life. As a GP, I think that re­as­sur­ance is 90pc of your job, but equally as im­por­tant is how you de­liver it, and that’s the beauty of hav­ing more time as a pri­vate GP. I don’t for a mo­ment be­lieve that a doc­tor that you pay loads of money to is clin­i­cally any bet­ter than a doc­tor you don’t pay loads of money to; the dif­fer­ence is time.

I take a 40-minute lunch break, and I eat at my desk. I bring my lunch in. I know it’s re­ally bad, that I should get out and get some vi­ta­min D, but I do that at the start or the day and the end of the day. I bring in smoked salmon sand­wiches — I think I must eat about three smoked salmon a week — so I smell fishy in the af­ter­noon. My hus­band makes some fruit salad for me, and I bring that in too. In the af­ter­noon, I see more pa­tients, then, af­ter work, oc­ca­sion­ally I will have a doc­tors’ meet­ing of an hour or so, or I might have to go to a launch or pre­sen­ta­tion. Oth­er­wise, I go straight home, to do my mother duty; my most im­por­tant job. I try to be home be­tween 6.30pm and 6.45pm, and that’s Darcy time. Then we have din­ner.

On the days that I’m Cam­bridge­based, when I’m not in clinic, I’ll cook. I’m a very messy cook. My hus­band is a very good cook, who ti­dies up af­ter him­self. I take out ev­ery sin­gle pot and pan and in­gre­di­ent and bot­tle; he says, ‘The kitchen’s been Pixie-d . . . ’ I al­ways cook pota­toes — mashed, boiled, roast, chipped. My mother gives me blocks of meat to bring back from Cork, be­cause she doesn’t be­lieve English meat is any good, and we eat an aw­ful lot of fish — salmon, had­dock, cod. Af­ter din­ner, nor­mally, Mitch and I sit down and watch telly for an hour and have a con­ver­sa­tion. It’s the only time in the day that we see each other.

If I’m do­ing telly here in the UK — such as Chan­nel 4’s Em­bar­rass­ing Bod­ies, where we deal with con­di­tions and body parts gen­er­ally con­sid­ered mor­ti­fy­ing — some­one will come and pick me up by car at 7am. For Ir­ish shoots, I’ve been fly­ing into Shan­non. Film­ing days are long, and full-on. Even if you’re not the per­son in the clinic at a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment, you’re hang­ing around out­side, and mem­bers of the pub­lic will stop and ask for ad­vice or sym­pa­thy, or ‘Where’s the toi­let?’ I’ve seen pretty much every­thing at this stage — af­ter all, th­ese are ail­ments that peo­ple have been too em­bar­rassed to go to their doc­tor about — so I don’t shock eas­ily.

Wher­ever I am, if pos­si­ble, I like to get home at night. As any­one who is a work­ing mother knows, there is a huge amount of guilt at­tached to not be­ing there. Since Darcy, I’ve got much bet­ter at say­ing no to things. I am a ‘yes’ per­son, a crowd pleaser, so I’ve had to rein my­self in and learn to say no. Pre-baby, I would have been at the open­ing of an en­ve­lope. Now, I’m quite se­lec­tive. I’m a big fan of ‘us’ time for me and Mitch. Darcy’s got an amaz­ing god­mother who’s great at babysit­ting, so ev­ery six weeks or so, we get a week­end away on our own. My par­ents al­ways did that. It didn’t do us any harm, and it did them a whole lot of good. Usu­ally, I go to bed at 10pm. I can’t stay up late any more; if I’m still up at 11pm, I’m get­ting ner­vous; life is too busy for that.

I never get any­thing ready the night be­fore. I have this idea that if I died in the night, I’d have wasted 20 min­utes

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