Diary of a visit to Denmark to present our play Out Like Fudge at a medical conference

Diary of a visit to Denmark to present 2BU Production’s play Out Like Fudge at a medical conference.

An out of the ordinary week in a life during November 2021

Wednesday This morning I will meet a Danish nurse who is to be my escort. We find each other under the main clock at København H, Copenhagen Central Station. Her name is Karina, and her job description is Head Nurse of the Department of Nephrology.

Flying from Bristol to Budapest, and Budapest to Copenhagen yesterday was hard work, the paperwork and concern something might go wrong was monstrous (Covid/ Brexit?) no-one seems to know what is going on. Totally discriminatory, no way could many people cope with the demands of travel at the moment – I struggle with all of it in my neurodiversity.

On a personal note, it’s the first time away since my cat Albie disappeared, it’s been a sad month and ironically the play I’m presenting features the ‘good’ death of a cat.

I am having breakfast in an Airbandb, in the flat of a man I don’t know (he hasn’t been in the flat at the same time and is very kind, helping me with the transport system). Last last night I visited a local supermarket for eggs and fruit before having a long sleep.

In an hour, Karina will take me to Aarhus on the train, where I’ll be taken to a hotel, given dinner with the conference board and on Friday present a play that I wrote initially for Bristol based trainee specialist nephrology (kidney) clinician Barny Hole (https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/persons/barny-d-hole). Barny has not made it himself due to Covid things, (frustrating but just reality) so I’ve reframed the trip as an intrepid writer solo adventure in a changed world.

Thursday Karina and Krista her colleague were lovely and once in Aarhus I met Jeanette over dinner; Jeanette has organised the conference and she tells me how she visited Bristol and Barny’s conference at the Wills building, where she first saw the play Out Like Fudge.

Settled in, I attend a session at the conference in English about end of life care, and then explore a bit of Aarhus – in particular the art gallery Aros where there’s a superb exhibition about what home is, relocation, migration.

In the evening, there is a conference dinner with the board and with Neerja Jain Heath from Kidney Research UK a fellow speaker from the UK. There’s also the prize giving for nephrology Nurse of the Year.

Friday It’s the afternoon after a cooked lunch and everyone is a bit after lunch-ish.

Barny Hole presents his research, over the screen from Bristol and holds a discussion with invited questions to ponder on.

It’s then time for me to introduce the play, which has been made into an audio drama by a Copenhagen company in Danish, and they’ve added visuals. My company 2BU Productions has licenced the play to the conference.

I ask the delegates – eighty highly qualified nurses, academics, matrons, dialysis company reps –  what will make them feel free over the weekend? The answers are walking, seeing family, partying – not paragliding or ski-ing as you might imagine.

Fudge is a cat, I say, and Jo is a free spirit with kidney disease. I watch on the big screen and wait to see what the audience make of it. It could go either way. There are sounds effects of a game show, which helps bring alive the jokes. There is laughter. Their faces are alive.

I put them in groups of three and they are engaged (in Danish) for 7 minutes, then I open the discussion, chair it and we have the most fascinating conversation in English.

Jokes? Should we be telling jokes about such a serious subject someone asks? Absolutely.

 ‘We thought about this audio drama as being part of a conversation that we thought we’d never have,’ one group tells the room.

Barny is still on the screen and so can answer the questions I can’t (the medical ones). Several said they want to share the work with patients, or colleagues: we discuss safeguarding and how to listen to people with lived experience of chronic illness better. This leads to a discussion about how much a nurse, a clinician, should wrap patients up in cotton wool to protect them, and how much can be discussed. It just depends on a lot of factors, but this is why we need to do the research, gather the numbers and have the conversations.

Jeanette and the board are pleased that the end of the conference has gone so well.  Chairing the discussion, sharing the holding of the session with Barny and feeling the buzz, was lots of fun, and I am so glad the delegates found our work inspiring.

Jeanette presents Barny and myself with songbird nightingales, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s story. It’s a classic Danish design and is made to touch.

Krista, a nurse and member of the board takes care of my train trip back to København H and we chat for several hours. I make my way to an Airb&B, the beautiful flat of an artist Nadia and her cat. The cat escapes up the stairway the second time I let myself in, and I have to corner her at the top of the flat to get her back. She winds herself round my ankles and hangs out on the mantlepiece above the radiator in my room. The cat, she says, is an indoor cat there in Copenhagen, but an outdoor one at the other place they go to stay. Nadia and I grab conversations in between trips out, and I visit my nephew who works in Copenhagen.

Once I get back home, our cat Albie is missing still and the ink on the posters on the telegraph poles has bled down the paper due to the rain, so no one could read them anyway. I ask the game-keeper behind our house whether the rumour was true that he shoots cats. Absolutely not, he tells me, that doesn’t happen nowadays. But if you let them out your house, he continues, they are vulnerable to all sorts, they are non native species and there a badgers and foxes that eat them.

I ponder this a moment, but feel I’d rather have an animal that can roam freely than not, even if the game keeper is right.

 We hope this may be the first of several productions of it, in different countries. Enquiries to elspeth@2buproductions.co.uk

Here’s our blog post about how the play came about: https://2buproductions.org/out-like-fudge-bringing-research-to-life-in-bristol-and-aarhus-denmark/

Barny and I have now developed our sister project to Out Like Fudge, which is called Little Whispers: hear me, and Dr Lucy Plumb joins us in our collaboration.