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Being driven down under

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I’m writing this in the dead of night. I can’t fall sleep because my eight year old daughter is having her first ever ‘sleep-over’.

She’s been talking about it all week and has planned it all in her not-so-secret-diary. But for me it’s the first time she’s ever been away from home and all kinds of high-drama scenarios have played through my mind.

‘Worrying about your children only gets worse,’ they say, ‘their problems only get bigger and more expensive.’ And so I have more nightmares to look forward to. But at least, I console myself, I’ve tried to solve some of her future problems by moving to Australia.

Why is it that so many GPs have moved to the other side of the world? Is it so they can dive head-first into a warm fuzzy world filled with David Hockney-esque swimming pools? Or for more honourable reasons?

I’d seen at first-hand what had happened to my senior colleagues; they were divorced, stented and depressed

I feel I was pushed to Australia rather than pulled. My future in the UK had been mapped out for me, like a terrifying, non-stop-open-topped bus tour. Straight ahead is your partnership, to your left are longer working hours and less family time, a sharp right and you’re heading for trouble, but just watch out for that fork in the road – one way lies a GMC referral! And the journey I envisioned always ended in the same way: in a punishing, crushing, crunching head-on collision.

So we left, because uncertainty is better than the preordained. I still miss Scotland, I miss its damp stone, its whiskey-breath and its slick-wet umbrellas. Australia, by contrast, is bright and new and its plastic icons ooze and melt in the sun. It also feels like a gratuitously childish country, where nothing has grown out of mistakes of the past. Its libraries, parks and schools are spacious and clean and planning gleams off every surface. But even so it’s a modern, plastic woozy kind of planning, America 2.0, a giggly shop-o-rama where suburban streets are repeated over and over and over again. It’s more Andy Warhol than David Hockney.

I couldn’t stay in the UK because my future was written in a not-so-secret diary – I’d seen at first-hand what had happened to my senior colleagues; they were divorced, stented and depressed. On the flip side who knows what’s going to happen if we stay here in Australia, but at least the future is uncertain again. Which reminds me; I do hope my daughter is ok.