Don's diary

October 10, 1997


Off to Stockholm for a conference on human rights in psychiatry. On the plane there is an extremely large man in front of me. His idea of reclining his seat is to push back with all his weight; there is an ominous cracking sound and he slams into my knee. I cry out in pain. The people sitting next to me do not speak English but look very sympathetic. Have another drink.

Limp to the taxi stand. Have been warned about unregulated Swedish taxis. Must agree the price before getting in the car. "Fixed price to Stockholm, 345 kroner," I say. The driver says that where I am is further than the city, so will be 395. It turns out he has been economical with the truth, but how am I to know? On the way he says he is going to take a short cut. We end up in the middle of what seems like a forest and he is driving very very slowly. "We're not in a hurry, are we?" he says. Speak for yourself. Is this a short cut? Try not to panic.


I give a talk on "the geneticisation of psychiatry" and its ethical implications. Most of the audience seem to be psychiatrists and afterwards one or two of them ask if I am a psychiatrist. Unusual for a philosopher to be asked that. Is this a success? I ampresented with a medal from the Swedish Medical Society commemorating Clarence Blomquist, who drafted the Declaration of Hawaii. Over lunch I overhear one UK psychiatrist saying that he regards philosophical discussions like mine with amused tolerance. Hmm! Probably did not understand it. In the afternoon I get a message to telephone the office urgently. Should we proceed with spending Pounds 2,000 on our publicity brochure? Decide to hold till I get back. At least I feel needed. Very nice reception in the evening with wonderful salads and strawberries. A child psychiatrist says she much admired my paper. That is more like it. She asks about the new universities in the UK and specifically about my position as a woman professor. Has it been difficult to get to this position? Who has helped me? I find myself saying rather sentimental things about the support of my partner. A bystander comments that this is quite a skilful psychiatric consultation.


Unfortunately I cannot stay for the second day, so I miss the arrival of the queen of Sweden. Back home I check my emails. Two colleagues have fallen out while I am away. Oh dear. I have a thick pile of papers to read before tomorrow's meeting at the British Medical Association. I wish I did not have to set out again on another journey straight away. I order an alarm call for 5.30am and take the papers to bed with me.


I love having breakfast on the train: it seems so civilised somehow. Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. At the meeting I see one of our visiting professors, with whom it is very difficult to catch up. He tells me he is staying in London to be filmed for the television programme Heart of the Matter, so he cannot return with me on the train for a talk. The discussion at the BMA's Genetics Steering Group is very stimulating, which keeps me awake, but afterwards I am too tired to do the reading I have brought with me for the return journey. Back home it is feet up and Coronation Street.


Research day but my brain is not yet back to research mode. I have to go in at lunchtime for a meeting with the organiser of our December conference. Make final decisions about abstracts in the light of the referee's reports. Then see other colleagues to catch up on what has happened in my absence. Telephone acolleague at another university with whom we are engaging in regional cooperation in training for local research ethics committees. Make final decisions about the teaching conference we are organising next week. That means another talk to prepare.


Check mail before my regular meeting with my line manager. We discuss aspects of the centre's development plan. Feel pleased with progress on the whole. A colleague has brought in some new funding as part of a project on vaccines. After lunch I invite my colleagues for a glass of champagne to celebrate that and the validation of our new MA with no conditions attached. Try to forget about the fact that this involves me personally in teaching two new modules. Have a meeting with a representative of our commercial company. She asks me to draft a business plan for the centre by the end of the month. I have only just finished the development plan and feel exhaustion coming on. She looks at my face and asks if it is all a bit too much. It is. Think about next week: two conferences to speak at. More travelling. When am I going to finish my book? Many acquaintances think that as head of a research centre I have all the time in the world for research - apart, of course, from the glamorous travelling! If only. Pick up a huge pile of external examining and go home for theweekend.

Ruth Chadwick, Professor of moral philosophy, University of Central Lancashire.

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