At the time of writing, a cloud of volcanic ash is hovering over Europe making Scotland dusty and preventing air travel.
Thousands of people are stranded, frustrated, confused and disempowered by a great lump of dust in the sky. Increasingly, airlines are getting cross with the volcano and blaming the rules that govern safety. Nature is costing them money - and nature isn’t insured.
We are completely used to being able to fly when we want. What’s more, if we are unable to do something we want, we are used to having someone to blame.
The news coverage over the first few days of the cloud’s existence was fascinating. Journalists normally hoover up anger: “We’re cross with the airline/the baggage crew/the travel agent/the government. This is someone’s fault and I deserve compensation/redress/a head massage.”
But this was a volcano. Nobody had anyone to blame, although one or two seemed quite cross with Iceland. What was “normal” just changed shape, and we weren’t sure what to do with it.
‘What sort of person does one become after years of nursing well? Tired perhaps, sarcastic sometimes but unfazed by volcanic ash? Probably’
Of course, the more childish among us might like to imagine a personality behind the cloud, a warm old face murmuring without a hint of sarcasm, “you see, you don’t always get to choose”. And it is ironic that the cloud appears at a time when a load of politicians are throwing ham fisted lumps of blame and self regard at each other, feigning control.
I was talking to an old friend recently; she has been nursing for nearly 25 years and is very good at what she does. We did what people of our age do, acknowledge the changes we have seen with a shrug and gossiped about people we trained with. Some still nurse, one married a count, another teaches dance, one runs a fudge shop. And I asked her how she felt about what she was doing - running a community team. She said that colleagues laughed less than they used to but that she thought that was because some of them confused professionalism with looking very serious. She said that nurses were more scared than they used to be and she wondered if the constant note taking and form filling encouraged nurses to think less rather than more.
She said she could still tell the brilliant nurses though. She reckoned the best nurses are the ones who know what to do when they are not completely in control of a situation. The ones who find the space to nurse with whatever is available. Whether they be nursing a crisis or working in a difficult place or circumstance, they adjust to a new reality and act.
Of course, she knows she is being whimsical. The idea that one of the wisdoms of a nurse is skilfully navigating situations you don’t control is vague and unscientific. But, in an age of competencies and capabilities, it tells us something about the unspoken sophistication of nursing. And, more importantly, it says something about what sort of person one becomes after years of nursing well. Tired perhaps, sarcastic sometimes. But unfazed by volcanic ash? Probably. And, maybe, a bit more adaptable than most? I suspect so.