Experiencing the excellence of the NHS – 14 July 2014

4.00am on a sunny Monday morning and, guided by NHS 24, I’m off to hospital to be examined by a friendly old GP in an empty Outpatients Department. He reckons my appendix should come out so takes me through to Accident & Emergency.eri 1I knew what to expect from Accident and Emergency because I sometimes forget to switch Channel 4 off after the news and see documentaries either about it, or about the folk who most often end up there. The confused, the drunk, the unruly and the angry.  If you’ve simply had an accident or encountered an unexpected emergency, you stand out.eri 2In my experience the NHS deals with acute distress brilliantly. People turned up, apparently out of nowhere, and raced me through the scans and tests I needed. Within a couple of hours they knew what they wanted to do with me. I just wasn’t sure I wanted them to do it.eri 3

They moved me to a ward to have a think.  A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks in an emergency surgery ward. They’re emotional places, people doing better than they look, people doing a lot worse, it’s not remotely relaxing.

eri 5 I’d come in to sort out my appendix but was being given scenarios that included far more significant surgery. You don’t want your appendix bursting though so after some discussion with communicative Registrar Alastair I went ahead.

eri 4

He’s a smart guy Alastair, and managed the least invasive of the three options we’d discussed. 12 hours from walking into the hospital to waking up in the recovery room. Free at the point of delivery. (Is this principle safer in Scotland’s hands, or the UK’s?)eri 6After that, recovery. Nothing left to do but recover in the care of a cracking team in Ward 106, led by Mr Ravindran. eri 7

It takes a lot of people to make a hospital work and I was impressed by how well they all worked together. I thought I’d try to identify the ‘characters’ and whether they were doing it for the love of it or not. My concentration wasn’t up to it, so I went home, a little bit lighter than when I’d gone in.


Footnote: I’ve wasted the NHS’s time on my appendix in the past, so it’s little wonder they wanted it, and me, out. Here’s the team that looked after me in the Western General for two weeks in March 2011. Mr Potter, on the right, taught me enough about how my insides worked that three years later I could ask some worthwhile questions whilst in a bit of pain and under a bit of pressure. It’s always worth paying attention.

eri zeroA brilliant experience of the NHS: good health care available to rich and poor alike.

A little bit famous… in Taiwan – 10 July 2014

My pastime cropped up in a Taiwanese illustration magazine called DPI.

dpi 1They asked me to check it before it went to print, but I’ve no idea what it says, so wasn’t a lot of help.dpi 2Still, I love nicely printed magazines so I’m delighted to have been featured.dpi 3There are more than 500 drawings describing the last two and a half years of family life so when they asked for twenty it was easy. Some travel, some buildings, some family and the inside of some busy cafes: they picked a fair sample.


North Uist Part Three : Who was there – 1 July 2014

These are the people who turned up and made it a memorable week. With the usual apologies for unintended insults!peter

Why we are all here: Seoc’s grandson, Peter Keith Morrison, my dad.

ruari and mairiRuari and Mary Morrison, my mum.

jane and julieJane & Julie

catrionaCatriona (sort of)

flora and alastairFlora and Alastair

david and marcMarc and David


jenny and calumJennifer and Calum

douglas and elizabethDouglas and Elizabeth




Andreas and InnesAndreas and Innes.

As it happens, my kids got them all, except Elizabeth (Rachel) and Catriona (confused looks, no guesses).


North Uist Part Two : Leaving – 1 July 2014

This is what I think I know about how my part of the Morrison family left North Uist and ended up in Edinburgh.

seoc leaving

My dad can recite his patronymic back 13 generations to a Murdo the miller in Tarbert Harris. I don’t know when my family moved to Uist, but by the time my great grandfather Seoc (Jock) was born in 1840 North Uist was a place in decline. The population had been reduced by the clearances: people were initially moved off the land by force, then left through choice as stories came back of better lives elsewhere. Seoc left for a life at sea.

seoc shipwreck

Seoc, the story goes, survived a shipwreck off South Africa. He crawled through hot, barren lands close to death. Coming across a shack, he decided that he could go no further and this is where he would die. On entering, he found a prayer pinned to the wall in Gaelic. Seoc took this as a sign and gained the strength to push on.  He survived.

seoc south africa

Seoc later arrived in the South African diamond mines. At that time the miner’s damaged ropes were being sent back to the UK for repair. He realised he could use the rope splicing skills he’d learned on SS Great Eastern and set up a lucrative rope repair business.

seoc in oban

After a while, he returned to Scotland and became a farmer in Oban, at Torinturk. With Marion MacVicar he had seven surviving sons. The boys all spent some time at school in North Uist. The language in the home was Gaelic. They moved to Edinburgh, to Caanan Grove in Morningside. dj

The fifth son was DJ, my grandfather. He became a GP and met Particia Keith, also one of seven. In her marriage lines Patricia is described as a portrait painter, and the watercolours I’ve painted these with were hers. So apologies for the next drawing of Ruaridh and his family, who happened to be staying in North Uist at the same time as us, popped round for a cup of tea, and ended up being badly drawn by someone they’d never met!  Ruaridh is the chief of the clan Morrison and we share the same great grandfather, Seoc. Ruaridh’s grandfather was John, the eldest son.

ruaridh and ann michelle

DJ and Patricia had a son called Peter Keith, my dad.peterThat’s how we got from North Uist to Edinburgh, and why we are all here this holiday.

North Uist Part One: Holiday – 1 July 2014

My parents, my sisters, our partners and all our kids were on North Uist for a week.clachan sands

The family spending a day on Clachan Sands.

newton lodge 1 july 2014

We all stayed in Newton Lodge, where I first stayed over 40 years ago.

ruchdiThis house is Ruchdi. My great grandfather used to live here, he built this house.

sollas coop

Before the clearances in the 1820′s there were around 5000 people living in North Uist. There are 1200 now. Our family are amongst the ones who’ve left. Over  the years I’ve heard lots of stories about how this happened, so this time I tried to set it out in a way I could understand.



A conference day – 24 June 2014

People should get more information to be able to compare the homes they’re considering buying: space, cost in use, broadband speed etc. The Housing Forum are pushing it and I went along to hear Ben Derbyshire talking us through how it would work.Performance labelling 24 June 2014

It seems like a good idea, there’s more about it here:


I was at a conference, so was quickly on to a new topic, a debate on Regeneration and particularly the accusation that it’s a process of gentrification. We need to improve the physical place but we need to improve the lives of the existing population, not just displace them. No disagreement there, but different ideas about how that can be achieved and how the approach in the south isn’t going to work for the rest of the country.Regeneration Round Table 24 June 2014Then some football watching followed by a meal with Crestel. This was generally relaxed but interspersed with some emotional discussion of the upcoming referendum.

Crestel 24 June 2014I feel fortunate to be taking part in a vote that arouses this amount of passion, a marked contrast to the parliamentary elections and the main stream parties.

Teddy Bear’s Picnic 20 June 2014

Big Ted  and I on a Saturday night with the beers out and the football on. We don’t normally do this, but Julie’s in London for three days so the place is ours.

big ted 20 June 2014Yesterday Innes and I took Big Ted to Innes’s playgroup Teddy Bear’s picnic: 40 mums, 1 dad. The mums were keen to know the details of how J had left me looking after three under fives for three days. I kept quiet, aware they were only gathering evidence for use in their own time-off negotiations.

Man on ladder 23 June 2014We all survived and I recovered by watching a man changing some light bulbs in a café. It made me think of independence which is a common topic of conversation in Scotland and pretty much the only one when I’m in England.

Load, aim, fire – 13 June 2014

Lots on, loads to do, too many choices. We’ve been spending time with clients working out the right thing to do. A little less action, a bit more consideration.Virgin 13 June 2014Load, aim, fire, as Bernard used to say.

KMBT_C284-20140619134124Looking around, people don’t seem to spend much time considering, they spend their time reacting, mostly to what’s on their phone.

KMBT_C284-20140619134300This an office building for sale for residential conversion. There are loads of these around: we are working on four just now. The best ones make better flats than what we end up with when flats are designed from scratch: spacious, lots of light, generous ceiling heights. They’re the ones you want, avoid the others.

KMBT_C284-20140619133839By some odd coincidence, I’ve got in three taxis over the last week, and it’s been the same driver every time…


It can all be beautiful – 10 June 2014

One frustration of being an architect is the fact that the main thing that stands between you and consistently great output is your own lack of talent. Mostly that’s not a noticeable problem as my contemporaries suffer similarly, but every now and then I end up somewhere and the exceptional surroundings remind me of my own inadequacy.

St Peter's 11 June 2014

Without realising where I was, I ended up in the crypt of Sir John Soane’s St Peter’s Church on Walworth Road, for some consultation on Aylesbury. The consultation was the start of a process aimed at achieving a great new place, the surroundings were a reminder that everything can be exceptional, even when it’s underground.

Perhaps for balance, I spent the night in Stratford. A different reminder: just because everything can be brilliant, that doesn’t mean it will be.

Stratford 10 June 2014

Mind you, last week I had breakfast in the Brunswick Centre. It used to be pretty bad, but seems well loved now, so perhaps everything will turn out ok for Stratford, and for Aylesbury?

Brunswick 3 June 2014

Cars & Girls – 1 June 2014

Mini, Volvo, Porsche. Parked in Covent Garden.KM_C454e-20140603105342Mum & Isla. On a Sunday afternoon at Craigcrook Road.Mum Isla 1 June 2014