Celtic Illumination, part 408, Saturday night fever.
Well; Saturday had arrived and unfortunately it was going to be, ‘One of those Saturdays.’ There was a definite change in the way the ward ran, but the human traffic that mulled around the nurses station had certainly diminished. I am sure that if there had been an emergency it would have been catered for. I was especially down heartened as I had been told they were not going to be pouring anymore blood in to me. They wanted to allow me to stabilise for twenty four hours and see how my poor little body was reacting to what they had done. When your day starts at six o clock in the morning with the commotion from a ninety five year old, over in the far corner, the day certainly drags itself along until it reaches midnight. Don’t worry it wasn’t his routine morning exercise that woke us all up, not that his joints were squeaking and groaning, they were, although in hindsight that could have been the bed he was holding on to, it was the fact that after he finished he would bring out his electric razor, which sounded like a two stroke petrol driven chain saw, and rasp off his morning stubble.
I was quite surprised that The Scouser was still on the ward, still showing people how he had been taught how to walk and stand still, not at the same time of course, after all it was only the army he was in, well; the marines. I did notice that a young lady with learning disabilities and or mental health problems was on the ward. She had her own room and two support workers. At one point it sounded as if there was a circus act in the room, that one person was supporting another, who would be running around the walls of the room, like a motorcycle on the wall of death. You could see the hospital nursing staff react, once any commotion started, then pause and understand that the support workers would handle the situation. It was like watching The Exorcist without the dog collars. I relaxed, knowing I didn’t have to get involved, but in a way I missed it, strange that.
I had three books with me, all of which I had to read, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I did try, but couldn’t get in to the books, so left them in my bag. I suppose many of us often think how nice it would be to spend the day in bed, to not have to do anything. But in reality it is so difficult, so boring. And yet you sort of prepare yourself for the long haul and before you know it the nurse is at the bottom of your bed asking, “Have your bowels opened today sir?” Sunday came and I actually expected for them to announce that I was cured and could go home. They still had I suppose what most people would call, ‘Doctors rounds,’ and during my Sunday morning visit was informed that there had been some improvement but not what they were expecting. I was to be given more blood. I was feeling more and more like a geriatric vampire as they began tapping my arms looking for a vein and the routine started all over again.
Beds were still being moved around. The old fellow in the corner, no, the other corner, the ninety five year old clean shaven exercise freak, was on the move to the heart attack ward, well; that’s what we told him. He was replaced with a friend of the fellow next to me; the one who had ran the pub in Spain for ten years. They then began holding conversations across the ward about people they knew and cats that they had had, oh yeah and a certain pub someone had for ten years in Spain. Then they brought a new fellow in. He looked as if he was sixteen, but he had so many tattoos on his arms and shoulders that he must have been much older. He looked very young and acted it too, as he demanded that the curtains remain drawn around his bed.
I hadn’t seen behaviour like it since boarding school, although if the truth be told we were much worse. Although admittedly we didn’t hide away in case anyone saw our willies, how could you when at six o clock every Sunday evening we would be marched off for a shower. A weekly wash supervised by the Dean, who would flash a bamboo cane across your arse, if you were not fully immersed in the deluge of fresh cold water. Which was good for you. I would love to get my hands on the idiot who announced to the world that cold showers were good for your health. I bet it was the same feckin idiot who said salt was nice on porridge, especially on the lumps. I always found it strange that in the centre of the shower room there was a huge bath and this was considered to be a luxury. If you were teacher’s pet, you would be given a bath while the rest of us stood shivering in the showers, Irish logic I suppose; well it is when you understand that the bath was as cold at the fecking showers.
The school was populated by farmers sons and farmers and farming types, all apart from me of course, a sophisticated urbanite, in fact we had our own farm at the school so that might allow you to understand the approach of the students and staff, which is probably why I was an outsider from the word, ‘Go.’ The fellow in charge of the farm was a priest known as Father Hackett. We called him Big Ged. He was six feet seven or eight inches tall, had bow legs, walking as if he had forgotted his horse, his eyesight was non-existent and he taught Latin. He was duty priest one night and caught a bunch of us having a willy measuring contest in the dormitory bathroom, as you do. It actually makes life most interesting these days for when you go home and you are in a social situation, introductions are being made, such as, “You remember Joe don’t you? You two must have been at Violet Hill at the same time. Joe’s now a barrister.” And you do remember Joe, but at two o clock in the morning in a cold bathroom with his pyjama bottoms around his ankles stretching his willy out as if it were a rubber balloon he was about to inflate.
Just as an aside, Big Ged was the most vicious of all the priests at Violent Hell. He was an animal and I know that a good number of boys actually had a go at him, unsuccessfully I might add, but at least they tried. There’s so many of the feckers I would have liked to have met afterwards but water under the bridge and all that. In fact Big Ged became a parish priest in Lurgan and was my Aunty Margaret’s parish priest. I remember, not knowing that she knew Big Ged, telling her all about the man and what sort of an animal he was. Margaret then told me that he was now her parish priest, which shocked me as I had a mental image of Big Ged beating everyone up at a baptism as the baby wouldn’t stop crying. But she added, “He’s all right now, as long as he takes his medication.” Meaning that there must have been something wrong with him when he was in charge of us at Violent Hell.
But what made me think of Big Ged I suppose was our Little Welsh preacher in the corner, our little tabernacle trash talker. Big Ged was a very animated man, and violent, did I mention how violent he was, it wasn’t uncommon to get a punch in the head if you were late with the communion bell when serving mass for him, I bet baby Jesus was pleased with that sort of behaviour. Nothing like mass in Latin with a thump in the temple to make a Sunday evening go with a zing. It was Sunday evening, the question had been asked and the correct response had been given, just like communion, except we were given medication instead of a communion host, amen, praise the Lord, seconds away, one a, two a, three a…. The lights came down; the young fellow was still hiding behind his closed curtain so the ward had a different sort of feel about it. It was about half past eleven and I knew it was pointless trying to go to sleep as I would be up and down all night long, but I was tired and couldn’t be bothered trying to plan for a decent nights sleep. The fellow next door had managed to scrounge five pounds off his wife, who used to run a pub in Spain with him for ten years, and was glued to some film on the television. The preacher was in a dark shadow so I couldn’t really see him, but he was grunting. The others on the ward were recumbent so I allowed myself to drift away.
Next thing you know is that it is one o clock in the morning, Monday morning mind you, which is what I found strange about the whole thing as you normally only get preaching on Sundays. But there he was, Monday morning preaching away, to himself mainly as it was quite dark. One of the staff heard the commotion and a door opened, sending a spike of light onto the ward which highlighted our Welsh pastor standing over the ex-Spanish publican roaring about God and Jesus and Satan and anyone else whose name crept into his poor befuddled mind. I immediately burst into laughter. The ex-Spanish publican was crapping himself as he thought he was in the middle of an exorcism or sacrifice or the like. The Welsh Preacher was giving it wellie, screaming about the Lord giveth and he taketh. I was in stitches for not only did he look like Christopher Lee in full flow, that’s full Hammer House of Horror flow and not Bond, but he also looked like Big Ged. Even the young fellow who had hidden himself away poked his head out to see what was going on. I promise you, if you want a good laugh and don’t mind not having any sleep for a week then get yourself off to your local NHS hospital, much more better for you than cold showers and lumpy porridge and you don’t even have to have a willy measuring contest, well; not unless you want to.