Golf, gardening, and gadding about

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There are those of my friends and colleagues who prepared for retirement with great enthusiasm -- nay, even gusto. And once retired, many would proudly proclaim that they wondered how they were able to work at all, given how full were their lives after they had handed in the stethoscope, the scalpel, or the workstation.

A number of these people, already with large gardens, elected to extend their enthusiasm for all things vegetable by acquiring an allotment. Now, I am a great supporter of "Digging for Britain," but as I gaze out on to my (thankfully) small patch of urban green (or rather, brown, especially at this time of the year), I reflect on my somewhat unsuccessful attempts at achieving "green finger" status.

Dr. Paul Dubbins.Dr. Paul Dubbins.

My experience of the joys of gardening is more a catalog of a never-ending battle with slugs, greenfly, and increasingly squirrels. Where the lawn doesn't have worm casts the size of molehills, it has craters the size of which the moon would be proud, where an ever-growing population are squirreling away their nuts. Small botanic gains such as a herb garden have been quickly decimated by an army of snails that clearly were watching over my shoulder as I perused Zoopla, the property search engine, for our new home. I guess the one compensation is I only have to add garlic and butter, given that the snails already are stuffed with parsley!

As for golf, my 4-year-old granddaughter more than matches my expertise, even at miniature golf. Furthermore, it remains difficult to ignore a lifetime of maintaining that golf serves only to spoil a good walk. Notwithstanding that, my swing is not what it was after three episodes of back surgery -- it was never any good in the first place -- so I shall have to eschew the pleasures of the small white ball.

I am not even sure about the greater freedom to travel in retirement. Many of my contemporaries now extol the virtues of cruising and exhort me to join them, spending endless hours at sea in a floating tower block, then to battle ashore to view some location of historical cultural or aesthetic importance at exactly the same time as those from every other floating tower block. At least when I was working, I could claim to be too busy.

I instead plan to use my knowledge and skills acquired over years of study and practical experience to enhance my environment and my enjoyment of leisure. There are those radiologists who, having retired, retreat to their study, now crammed with viewing screens and internet paraphernalia and ... work! They spend their time reporting plain films that they had neither the time nor the inclination to evaluate while they still were in full-time employment.

Me? I have taken to reporting imaging studies that are presented in TV dramas. On BBC TV, "Casualty" and "Holby City" fail to employ radiologists, so I shall be that radiologist. Live-pause the TV to consider carefully all the random images scattered across a viewing screen and then scream as they get it spectacularly wrong and diagnose a renal cancer from a chest x-ray and a barium enema.

What is so fulfilling about all of this is how it so nearly reflects my real life: not a cross-sectional study in sight, no workstations, and the clinical data bearing absolutely no relation to the study requested! I now plan to download all the box sets of "ER."

However, my self-congratulatory status recently was seriously unsettled by an episode of "Luther." The forensic pathologist's diagnosis of a frontal brain tumor based on a smartphone picture taken from a single photographic print of a T2-weighted MRI section has totally unnerved me. What was I missing?

The opportunities for intervention are rather more limited, although with the advent of the Wi-Fi smartphone endoscope, I am looking to develop balloon dilatation methods for pipe scale in hard water areas -- perhaps not playing to my strengths here since vascular radiology was not my forte.

Sadly, however, I had a bit of a disappointment early in my use of ultrasound guidance around the home. It appears that ultrasound is of limited use in identifying water pipes, and I achieved a somewhat unintentional full-thickness biopsy of copper when installing a soap dish in the shower. Undeterred, I had my endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) kit laid out in the airing cupboard, only to be interrupted by the plumber, who had been urgently summoned by my wife. I complained that she was stifling innovation, but my kit has now been confiscated!

Perhaps the grandchildren will be more appreciative of my knowledge and skills. I've dug out my lectures about the introduction to ultrasound physics -- too soon for a 4- and a 7-year-old?

Dr. Dubbins is a consultant advisor in radiology based in Berkhamsted, U.K. He previously worked as a consultant radiologist at Plymouth Hospitals National Health Service Trust and is a past vice president of the Royal College of Radiologists.

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