The Frankie Roberto Interview

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The Frankie Roberto Interview

Frankie meets... Witty Ditty

Witty Ditty
on being a medical student, tennis and 'WD-42'.

Looking at Witty Ditty's slightly chaotic but flashy home page, I learn that she is a medical student, a tennis fan, and is keen on the idea of going off on tangents... I start off by asking what drove Witty Ditty to becoming a medical student. She takes a deep breath before answering.

'That is probably the one of the most difficult questions anyone can ask a doctor, or even a lowly medical student. In all honesty, I feel that I was born for the job, as no sane person would really take on such an immense
task such as this, with its many ethical pitfalls. I suppose growing up in a medical family (my dad's a doctor) had some influence on me, although I am not one to really blindly follow my parents' career, I could have become something more financially rewarding, like an architect or something... Even my dad was a bit doubtful. He kept
asking 'are you sure' and 'you know that I'll be really hard work' and so on. Maybe I'm just a sadist at heart... There is another possible reason, and that is I spent most of my early life as a patient in hospitals, for various operations on my ears, I'll save you the gory details. It might be a kind of 'thank you, I'll join your ranks to
help others as you did with me' kind of mentality. But I can't give you a straight answer for this one because I'm not entirely too sure myself...'

In the UK the British medical profession is currently going through a hard time at the moment, with many question marks hanging over the NHS, our National Health Service. I ask Witty Ditty if, as a mediacal, she thinks the NHS is in a dire state at moment.

'I think that the NHS was set up on the best of intentions, but fell down on the detail. Originally, doctors did not want to join when it was first set up in around 1949 as they did not want to be considered as mere civil servants and be taken for granted... As it stands at the moment, I think that medicine in the UK is slowly changing for the better. There is a great deal more transparency in the whole system. However the doctors that you hear about on the news are the bad ones which everyone tends to tar us with. I get quite angry with that, as I, and the rest of med students in this country, are being educated not to take the paternalistic route. We are being taught to listen to the patent and give them choices, and then if they don't want it, then that's their decision, and we will respect that. Unfortunately, there are a few, who may not see it that way... It takes six years for us to get to the end of our course, so changes will be very slow, but it will happen.'

'As for the NHS being in a 'dire state', I haven't worked in enough hospitals to really know... The hospital I did work in for six weeks in my second year was wonderful. They did have to close the hospital to all new admissions once though. The NHS is running on empty, but I can't see it getting much worse. If it were a car, I think you'd have some real issues with it. Bureaucracy is the main enemy of good medical practice, I don't want to be tied up in paperwork when I should be treating patients. And we should get a pay rise.'

I ask if the increasing number of private practices is a good thing.

'I think that if you do start to mix medicine and money, then it becomes an ethical nightmare. You can't really tell if you really need a procedure because it is actually necessary, or if the practioner can get more
money out of you. On the other hand, I do know lots of good doctors who do a bit of private practice on the side, to give patients the option of getting their procedures done quicker. The increasing number of private practices is
probably a sign of the times. Patients want to see things getting done quickly and, just by the laws of economics, if there is a demand, then supply must follow suit.'

I ask if the co-presence of private and public health services create an unfair 'two tier systen' separating the rich and poor.

'Well, that is based on the assumption that private medicine is automatically better than the NHS, which I don't think is the case. Those who have the money may have more choices, but not necessarily good ones. Variety
may be the spice of life, but you have to know your spices well to select the good ones... it is certainly an issue. In terms of who gets treated first then maybe there is a case, but in terms of quality, I think that the NHS
may be better in some aspects.'

Off on one of Witty Ditty's tangents onto tennis, I can tell from the entries she has written and her homepage that Witty Ditty is a keen tennis fan. I ask, though, if she is a true, year-round tennis fan, or just one of us people who only become tennis fans (and players) during the Wimbledon fortnight?

'I don't follow tennis religiously all year round, unlike my sister, but I do have a real interest in the current game, just simply because it's so dynamic at the moment. The mens' game has the new influx of good, young, and quite fit (I mean that in all senses of the word) players, and the womens' game has really come on leaps and bounds over the past few years. However, I do keep an eye on what's going on in the world of tennis even 'now'.'

'My interest does obviously peak at Wimbledon, simply because its the most prestigious Slam that all players want to win. And there are so many stories and so much drama that happens there and nowhere else. I can't see McEnroe's famous 'you cannot be serious!' having the same effect at the US Open, for instance, because the atmospheres are just so different. The US Open is always fun to watch though. And the Davis Cup doesn't get nearly as much coverage as it should.'

I ask if she thinks Tim Henman will ever win Wimbledon now. Every year we seem to think 'this could be the year', but it hasn't happened yet...

'Yes I do. I think that he was a bit unlucky this year, but Goran really had a good run of it (understatement of the century that). I was really quite happy to hear that our Tim had finally won something on the ATP Tour. Quite frankly, Tim has the natural talent and the skill to win, and especially on grass as a serve-volley expert. I'm quite confident he can win. Goran is quite confident he can win next year, saying that the only other person who is better on a grass court than Tim is Pete Sampras. Pat Rafter says that he knows that Tim will win, if not next year, then the year after. So I think if they have the confidence in him, then so should we... he is only 26, after all, so we may have to wait and see... In the meantime, cross those fingers and wave those banners! One thing that will have to wait is the entry on Tim. I have already said in other forums that I refuse to write one about him until he either wins Wimbledon or retires. Whichever comes first...'

What about playing it?

'I actually don't play tennis that well. I have a pretty decent topspin forehand, and quite a good serve, but the rest of my game is pretty non-existent. Table-tennis, on the other hand, is the only sport I can really boast about, namely because I'm so damn good at it...'

I've spent some time looking around Witty Ditty's marvellous boutique. Amongst other things, the boutique specialises in selling cans of WD-42, a marvellous invention. I ask where the idea came from.

'Ah yes, the boutique. It was a case of either walking to the tube station or to the bus stop, when I went off on another of my tangents. I began thinking about the whole vastness of the universe and thought that 'wouldn't it be lovely if there was a portable version?' WD was something I was using as my signature around h2g2, and since there was already something called WD-40, then WD-42 seemed more than appropriate... I forgot about it until the summer holidays, when I was discussing something equally tangentential, and we thought we should do something together as a non-PR entry, but a fun thing. And the Boutique was born! It was a dual concept - a tangent from me, and Caper Plip's excellent descriptive writing, which I can't thank her enough for... It's Caper Plip's and my enterprise to spread the Meaning to everyone, but not have it in such a vast format, but a little can, to freshen up, or to scent the room, even clean your toilets. Anyone can come over to have a little browse, the link is over on my space and Caper Plip's too; we do have everything from Home Fragrance to Bespoke Services, if our pret-a-porter collection doesn't cover your requirements! And even if you don't want to buy, then feel free to come and have a
chat, we'll only be too happy to sit down, kick back and pour another Blue Mountain coffee. Or tea if you want. And if you want something with alcohol in it, I'm sure we can arrange that too... Of course, it's coming up to Christmas so we are fully stocked.'

Ah, Christmas... The build up to it seems to have started already. I work on Saturdays in a bookshop, so I know just how early people people are coming out to do their shopping... Not quite during Christmas, but a kind-of Christmas meet all the same, the next official h2g2 meet, celebrating Rupert's birthday, is in January. I'm certainly looking forward to it, so I ask if Witty Ditty is planning on going.

'I'm not entirely sure. I know I live in London, but in January, I start my clinical firms, so I'll be on the wards, and occasionally working on weekends too. It'll have to be a case of wait and see I'm afraid, although I
would very much like to come. I very nearly came to the summer one, but my hall residency licence ran out on that very day, so as you guys were a-partying, I was a-moving stuff out of my room...'

h2g2 is an enoumous site, and there are so many different places to visit on the site. A place I'm currently promoting is the newly-opened h2g2 Campsite. I ask what Witty Ditty's favorite hangouts on h2g2 are.

'I've just recently got into the 'Ask the H2G2 community' page, I find it a fascinating conversational arena. Ask anything, and someone will have an
answer, it's a wonderful concept. Also, Dragonfly's fan club is a wonderfully fun place to be, it's chirpy, hilariously funny and wonderfully fluffy with chocolate and cheesecake being constantly dished out! And of course, I love Peer Review, the first thing
that encouraged me to write here.'

Talking of Peer Review, Witty Ditty has recently sent one of her new entries, Two Halves: One Brain to the Peer Review forum.

'The entry partly written because I find the topic fascinating, but mainly as a form of revision, as it was the lecture I had that day. The feedback I get from PR forces me to read it and re-read it, so that, in effect, I revise through the help of the community. The topic is something that has interested me for quite some time. The whole aspect of two very different halves controlling one very united body, and the brain, as a whole, is the most mysterious organ of the body. We just don't know enough about it. And it keeps coming back with so many more

With h2g2 being so full of students, myself included, (what better way to waste your free non-drinking-hours-time?), this seems like a useful way of being able to contribute to the community and do your
studying at the same time. As I scroll back up to the top of the screen my eyes glance momentarily the new BBCi bar. I ask Witty Ditty what she thinks of it.

'I try not to.'

Fair enough. Finally, I ask what Witty Ditty thinks is the best thing about h2g2.

'For me, it's the community, the fellow researchers, the general ebullience that supports us all, and the refreshing originality and quirkyness that is to expected from h2g2!'

Frankie Roberto

Next Week: MaW on the Special Constabulary, Writers' Block and juggling.

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