I Came, I Saw, I Rectalled

21st Feb – 3rd March

“Wait, so… milk is just cow boob sweat?” the words came out before I’d given them permission, much to the amusement of my friends. This was the only piece of information I had retained from two consecutive hours of lectures on mammary glands. Although, in my defense, this is essentially true – the mammary gland is a modified apocrine sweat gland. Ergo milk is modified apocrine sweat. Gross, I know.

I had two hours to consolidate and memorise these lectures before I jumped on a minibus and took a trip to the school’s dairy farm for my afternoon practical, entitled on my timetable as: Rectal Examination of Cattle

My favourite. Continue reading!


Nose To Tail

Patient cooperation? That’d be the bloody day.

Rewind to the 1st of February, and you’ll find me hanging off the head of a cow, trying to pry her eyelids apart as she throws herself back and forth.

“Will you stand still!? I’m not going to hurt you!” Okay, this probably will hurt a bit, but it’s going to hurt more if you fight with me.

There was a brief respite from the thrashing as she stopped to catch her breath. I took my opportunity to separate the eyelids and push her eyeball backwards a fraction into the socket, so that the nictitating membrane jumped out across the surface. I had less than a second to make my assessment of her eye before she began throwing her head again. I let go and stepped away, “This girl needs a break.” Continue reading!

Something to Ruminate Over

It sat in front of me like a giant empty potato sack – completely shapeless, and a uniform shade of boggy brown. My notes said that there would be four chambers: rumen, reticulum, omasum, abomasum. But when I looked between my brightly-coloured diagram and the deflated brown specimen, there was no resemblance whatsoever. And so with the familiar snap of rubber gloves, I began rummaging inside the great sack.

Somebody had made a large incision across the top, which meant I could hold up the edges and peer into the darkness. I really don’t have adjectives to describe the smell, but the internal surface was textured like AstroTurf, and divided into chambers by thick muscular bands. This must be the rumen.

The rumen was slimy and dark and difficult to navigate. I actually paused at one point to appreciate how every decision in my life had led to me groping around inside the preserved stomach of a dead cow. How utterly poetic. Continue Reading!

Till The Cows Come Home

There’s something oddly feminine about a cow.


Maybe its the gentle eyes, with their long lashes, or the delicate placement of each hoof on the ground, or perhaps the soft blowing of her breath as she investigates your hands. Despite her size, sometimes she’s just such a lady.

And yet at exactly the same moment, she’s seven hundred kilos of bellowing, farting and crapping. Continue reading

Mr. Big Bollocks & The Palatini Bros.

Thought I’d open with a bang, hence the catchy title. So, what’s been occurring?

Well, I’m stressfully approaching two assessments in cell biology, the first of which will take place this wednesday, and the other two weeks after that. The one that looms over my coming week is a presentation which, mercifully, will last only 6-8 minutes and have an audience of 5 people. Only thing is, the fifth will be some PhD (literal) world expert in what I’m talking about. Which means, unlike secondary school, I can’t just blag it with long words shoehorned into even more elaborate sentences. But what am I talking about? ‘The Squid’s Contribution to our Understanding of Excitable Cells’.

Yeah, I know, contain your excitement please, ladies and gents. What that really means is: physics.

My talk, if I, by some miracle, manage to say it like I’ve written it out, should last six and a half minutes… spot on. Continue reading!

The Philosophical Cow

It’s been yet another two weeks since I last wrote! Maybe it’s got something to do with the hordes of information flying in from every direction. No, it definitely has something to do with that.

But it’s what I signed up for, isn’t it? And it’s not all bad, of course.

Two weeks ago, I had a superb run of four days that finished earlier that 5pm. Absolutely magic. Did I get more done that I would have done ordinarily? Probably not, but boy did it feel good to slow down a little.

Those days, though they contained mostly bland-ish lectures, had some real gems of thought in them. For a start, they contained lectures on cell division, with the molecular basics of cancer… which in all honesty put a new spin on this famously sinister disease. …Continue reading!

All Hallow’s Eve, Vet’nry Rodeos & Meeting the Fockers

It’s been two weeks since I last posted. I just haven’t had a spare minute to write in. But here I am now… it’s Sunday, the madness has come to a lull.

The Saturday morning after I wrote (but somehow didn’t publish) my last post, I was straight out of bed, breakfasted and pacing round the room. That was the morning my family came up.

It was a profoundly beautiful moment to see the three of them walking into the complex, and to really hug someone for the first time in way, way too long. It’s funny, because I’ve always thought of home as Croft Cottage, and thought that the need I felt was to be back there. But at that moment, in the middle of Edinburgh city, I was home. …Continue reading!