Two events today - the launch of Ramadan Festival at the House of Commons (the new modern bit) and then a visit to a private medical centre to try and arrest the development of Tennis Elbow (or more seriously) tendon damage.
On the face of it, neither of these things would appear to have anything to do with dialogue. But of course (to my ears) they did. And today my ears were pricked further by having my two boys with me on my travels.
The launch event of Ramadan Festival a wonderful and necessary and inspiring event under the direction of the fabulously mercurial and passionate Syed Moshin Abbas, was an unexpectedly dry affair. Me and the boys arrived late, distracted by the portraits of among others Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn and David Cameron, and as always seems the way when a meeting has already started, we entered the room through the one of the two doors that led us straight into the eyeline of the audience and the press, and directly behind the main players. Sorry everyone.
Billy thought we'd interrupted a government meeting. (So did I for a few seconds.) Stanley obediently entered and quietly observed what was to unfold.
We crept through (unnoticed I'm sure - not) to the back and settled in to listen.
I had promised the boys colour, music - but no food I warned them: it's Ramadan - and what we got was an extraordinarily civil(ised) affair. Long speeches. A very dull Powerpoint presentation. ("If I was Gordon Brown I'd give everyone in the government a Mac - that way we would have avoided a recession" said Bill. I tried to convince him - like I try to convince everyone else I work with - that actually Powerpoint the software is now rather good, (if not a patch on Keynote) and that the problem is the people who write the presentations.
And after a while, even though the arguments being made were bang on and passionate (sometimes) it was not the lively event I had hoped it would be. People used it to express irrelevant (that's not to say unimportant) opinions and it made me realise just how good an idea it was to do the the Your thoughts with mine series with CCE this year. (We're now planning Series II for the Autumn where I train up a team of people to go forth and facilitate instead of me.)
Anyway - forget the style. Forget the staid environment. What was missing? In essence: a sense of anyone being heard by anyone who needed to be listening. I felt people might be up for a dialogue but I didn't feel there was anyone across the table to talk to. (Today anyway.) I'm being brutal I know but not without positivity. It made me think there is so much work to be done on bringing together Muslim and non-Muslim individuals, groups, formally and informally and getting them to dialogue the hell out of each other. Moshin spoke well about a future to be considered and imagined. "Yes" (I thought so loud I almost said it quietly). "Yes. Where do I sign?" And then a guy who sounded like he knew O.B. personally spoke about potential and possibilty. Can we believe that there is now an unspeakably rare opportunity to break new ground, imagine new things, build new conversations between far distant neighbours. "Yes" I thought again, "Yes we can!"
Where do I sign?
So - onwards to the medical centre in Kensington (after some big milkshakes in Gloucester Road and a brief diversion into the David Lloyd apartments) and the brilliant but non-communicating specialist.
The building is low ceilinged and a bit tawdry. The receptionist is lovely but a bit confused by me having the boys there. She warns me that the magazines might not be suitable for Bill and Stan. They immediately race to find them, only to discover Runner Magazine, Fitness Weekly, Home and Garden and Hello! None of these are exactly racey. Not by my boy's standards anyway. Far too little flesh, too many comfortable kitchens and flowery sofas. So - I thought I'd pretend to read out loud an article on new kitchenette features, inserting rude words for benign ones just to pass the time and keep the boys in good spirits. What fun we had with smooth surfaces and hard worktops. I didn't need to change any words. Anyway... eventually we were invited in to the small hot room where the brilliant specialist works...
My tennis elbow is not just tennis elbow he tells me. It's also golf elbow. The tennis elbow is more pronounced than the golf elbow (which is good because I play proper tennis and only Crazy Golf and that only once a year).
Anyway - the brilliant man does Ultrasound on me (I have carefully read the leaflet outlining the attached cost of this gentle segue from manual manipulation into technological manipulation. The picture looks amazing.
"There's the tendon!" he says.
"Yes." I reply, thinking: "What, the grey bit or the white bit?"
"The grey bit or the white bit?" I say.
"Both" the brilliant man says. "These colourful splodges indicate blood activity" he adds.
That sounds good I think.
"That's not good" he says.
"Right" I say... "Because...?"I tentatively ask. "I'm not very clever with this kind of thing. You might have to explain it simply."
And finally he explains it (brilliantly, not simply) and I sort of understand; enough anyway to know that the dreaded injection with the long needle and the huge additional cost that my friend Dave had warned me about were both about to enter the room.
I want to ask more questions, but he seems to brilliant to be interested in answering them.
He knows what to do, so why don't I just be quiet and let him do it?
So - the receptionist came back in. This time though, she was the nurse. She helped prepare things and eventually (after some sharp pain and fiddling about) I can look forward (maybe) to a full recovery and tennis again in three weeks time.
Just as the weather turns and I run out of time to play tennis because I'll be back at work again.
In the meantime, it might be VERY painful in the next 48 hours says the brilliant man.
And I thought - I know very very little. About my elbow. Less in a way than I did before. I could have asked more questions. But it felt rude. His job (it felt like this anyway) was to fix me, not educate me.
And I thought of Anjelo who I interviewed two years ago about treating people in pain. And how beautifully he communicated with people. And how much store he put in a patient's understanding. Not just because they left more informed... But also because (magically or logically?) it also helped the pain go away.
So - I paid. A lot of money. But I got 20% off because I wasn't on Private Health Insurance. So if I had been on Private Health Insurance I would have been paying at least 20% more than was necessary.
Maybe if Gordon Brown gave everyone a Mac... and if Bill Clinton had given America an NHS... we wouldn't have had a recession.
Anyway. My elbow hurts.
But not for much longer.