It should come as no great surprise to many of you when I admit that I have slept in some weird and wonderful places, from snow holes to ditches and back again. One I remember was a purpose built room where the bunk beds accommodated six people at a time. We had come in, as you do, a little bit exhausted and dined on babies heads followed by a decent cup of coffee with possessed cheese on rolled oat biscuits. We were then instructed to line up by the door that led into the bed room and wait for a bed to become empty. The moment you were next in line and saw someone pull themselves off a bed you made your way to it, rolled on to it and slept. There was no messing about. We were still in full combat gear and would even have cuddled ourselves around the rifle, or machine gun, we carried. In such a macho, methane flavoured, environment I had one of the best sleeps ever.
I can now assure you that one of the most uncomfortable night’s sleep I have ever endured would have been my first night in an NHS hospital next door to the duty drunk Scouser. A slushy, dripping, snow hole would come a close second but at least I didn’t have someone waking me up every thirty minutes taking my blood pressure, sticking something in my ear and putting a plastic clothes peg type thingy on the end of my finger. Gary proved that not only was he a decent fellow but that he wasn’t a liar as he arrived in the middle of the night to take me off for an x ray. The only good thing about this was that I was encouraged to remain on the bed which he expertly wheeled along the dimly lit corridors. It was obvious that the technician at the x ray department had been roused from her sleep as she yawned and scratched her way around me. For some reason I was asked to stay on my bed and was x rayed there.
Gary brought me back to my ward where our friend The Scouser was hanging over the side of his bed throwing up. Of course he wanted to tell everyone in the hospital that he had thrown up and was yelling at the top of his voice, between wretches, “Nerse!! Nerse!!” Gary expertly navigated my bed away from the spreading pool of vomit and parked me up an extra two or three feet away from The Scouser, who I think had begun to wonder not just where he was but who he was. Then there was the pain from the stab wounds which allowed him to roll back on to his bed and begin to whine for someone to attend to him as he was a very sick boy indeed. He plugged his ears back up again with the television headphones and stuck his face in front of the television screen, it really was Orwellian. I knew that I was exhausted as the constant waking up, with people sticking needles in me, or taking my blood pressure, and the noise from the others area was just too much.
It was as dawn was poking through the windows, and I don’t mean that blond girl from Hazelhurst, when Gary arrived again to inform me that I was to be taken to another ward. In a way I was quite interested to experience the working of an NHS hospital as it was so often talked about in the news. You had the likes of the Commonwealth Fund, a very highly respected organisation, which produces analytical reports on the performance of different countries’ health systems, declaring that the NHS is the world’s best healthcare system. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/17/nhs-health?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2 And then you have the Tories selling it off piece by piece, lining their mates pockets and robbing the British tax payer blind, as normal. But let’s not talk about politicians as that would start a rant you would probably never hear the end of.
Once again it was a six bedded ward and I was slotted in to a central position. It was bright and busy and more people were surrounding me and sticking things in me. I wasn’t sure if I should have accepted the breakfast I was offered as I couldn’t guarantee that it would stay down, so I declined the cereal and orange juice and opted for the safe option of toast and tea. They even gave me some little pots of marmalade. Someone was selling newspapers from a trolley while another person was offering every patient towels and soap, with toothbrushes and toothpaste. It was like market day in Norwich, except there was no sheep. A nurse came in and wrapped the curtain around my bed, not in a parcel type of way; she enclosed the area so that I could have a bit of privacy. She then went off and returned with a large bowl of hot water. I assured her that I could perform my own ablutions and would not require her bed bath. She left me alone so I stripped off and began to scrub myself from top to bottom.
It was as I was at the bottom part, and I don’t mean my feet, when a young nurse came in and I am sure, from the way I was contorted on the bed, was probably put off her lunch. I hurried up with my ablutions as they tended to enter through the curtains like they were pantomime capes, swinging them wide open so that the bored patients dotted around the ward could have something different to gawp at. Eventually I found myself clean, dry and dressed in fresh pyjamas sitting on the edge of my bed, enjoying the anonymity the closed curtain gave me when it hit me. Nothing physical, it wasn’t a flying bedpan or the like, but the sensation that I needed the toilet. Now for normal people this is usually no great problem, you experience the sensation that suggests you should consider making your way to the nearest toilet, you go to the toilet and perform whichever function you need to. With me I knew that from the moment I got the sensation, to needing to be firmly positioned on a toilet bowl, was three seconds.
I launched myself off the bed and flew through the curtains. I didn’t know where the toilet was, so wasn’t sure if I could make it and was so pleased to find that as I moved along my toast and marmalade were coming back up. “Toilet?” I asked a passing nurse who looked at me and she pointed to a door which I made a beeline for. More came out of my mouth than my bottom. In fact it would be safe to say it was all a case of nothing more than hot air, but we all know, many from experience, that you can never trust a fart, especially in company. Normally I would have been mortified in case anyone passing outside had heard the rumblings but I was in no real state to care. I cleaned myself up, had a wee rest and then made the return trip to my bed. The other patients were being moved about like pieces on a draught board. The commotion on the ward seemed to phase itself out and it became calm and quiet. I could feel myself begin to drift off to sleep when none other than The Scouser was wheeled in to the bed space next to mine.
My fears that I was to be hounded by this fellow, for my remaining time in the hospital, didn’t last long as a male nurse arrived to take me, my bed, and my possessions to a new ward. There were only three fellows in this new ward, all of whom were sleeping so I decided to join them and allowed myself to drift off. Despite being in a new ward and drifting in and out of sleep I could still hear The Scouser complaining away about the fact that the television had eaten his five pounds when he hadn’t even watched the thing. It did cause me to smile but at least I was in a relatively quiet corner of the unit. Next I was woken by a gaggle of doctors who wrapped the curtain around our little gathering and began to fire questions at me. Had I noticed six pints of blood pouring out of my body? Not only do I think I would have noticed such an event but I may have made a note of it and I am sure Irene would have told me off if I got any of it on the furniture.
It was decided that I should be tested; this unfortunately had nothing to do with MENSA but was more along the lines of a gastroscopy, an ultrasound examination and a flexi sigmoidoiscopy. Flexi Sigmoidoiscopy is not something I had come across before so I had to ask. One of the doctors translated it for me and said, “Colonoscopy,” a term which I didn’t need any further translation of. I was still slightly uncomfortable with the notion but knew it was the right thing to do. The curtains were swept back and the doctors moved on to the fellow in the next bed. I couldn’t be bothered listening in to what was wrong with the fellow next door as I was more concerned with my upcoming photo session. It was nearly three o clock in the afternoon, I had almost been in the hospital twenty four hours, visiting time was almost upon us so I did the only thing any decent patient would do and went to sleep.
I had found myself sat sitting on one of those trolley things, in a cubicle, in an accident and emergency department, in one of my local hospitals. Not something I usually do and not something I thought that I needed to do, although to tell you the truth my fate was now in the hands of others. And those others were still being told to keep their wandering hands to themselves. It was quite late at night, about eleven thirty and I was nodding off repeatedly. A drunk was escorted in and the evening livened up a tish. It was another stabbing but this time the fellow was quite upset, not only was he upset but he was exceptionally drunk. I had been in the accident and emergency department for almost eight hours. During that time there must have been, on average, forty people in the department, some medics, some patients, and apart from the chap immediately next door, the previous stabbing victim, it was impossible to hear what people were saying. Now all anyone could hear was this fellow, The Scouser.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like Scouser’s and I’m not a racist in any shape or form, but there’s a certain ‘fullness’ to the Scouse accent, especially when drink has been taken, and when it is expletive laden, with each word showered with saliva and issued at the equivalent volume to eleven on an amplifier, it tends to send a shiver down ones spine. Believe it or not there was a recent newspaper report that said, “Scousers have the least intelligent and least trustworthy accent,” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2433201/Scousers-intelligent-trustworthy-accent–Devonians-friendliest.html If I was a newspaper editor I don’t think I would have published that story, how embarrassing for so many people, however the Daily Mail is not really a newspaper, it is only concerned with celebrity worship these days, like the porn actress Kim Kardashian and her dysfunctional family, they’re not news, or even newsworthy, they’re just sad. Had the Daily Mail bothered to ask me my opinion I would have said that for me to listen to Received Pronunciation, or as some dipshits like to call it ‘The Queen’s English,’ that it makes me physically sick. Please don’t tell the people at Debrett’s, I’ll be barred from reading the book for life.
So, as I said, the evening was getting interesting as the police tried to remove various items of clothing from our Scouse friend to use as evidence. Another bobby was trying to get a statement while some medics were tending the wound or wounds. The Scouser, and by the way I couldn’t see any of this, I could only hear what was going on, as could everyone else in the accident and emergency department, the Scouser was of course resisting everyone who was in the cubicle with him. I began to smile to myself at the thought of a gang of medics going to offer him a bottom inspection. Of course this being a hospital there were many tried and tested methods of calming people down and the Scouser did calm down. There was no magic needle or small white pill used but from what I could hear, which was a police officer apologising, for slipping and accidently landing a forearm smash on the Scouser’s head, the method had been effective. After that things began to return to normal and I felt myself nodding off.
As my head dropped down I was sure that I saw someone I recognise pass by the cubicle opening and I shouted out, “Hey Gary.” Sure enough it was Gary, an old friend of mine I had met while driving a taxi. He was one of the nicer fellows and I knew he had left the taxi game and was working as a hospital porter but hadn’t expected to bump in to him. I was pleased for him as he seemed happy and deserved a break. Gary nipped in to my cubicle and informed me that he was just coming on shift but that he would be looking after me, not to worry. It was nice to know someone there and also to know that that person would help me out. Quite soon after Gary came in and told me he was taking me off to a ward. As he wheeled me along various corridors we spoke of the old days and some of the laughs we had together. Hospital wards these days are slightly different to the ones I remember. The last one I was in was in Belfast having my tonsils out.
There must have been fifty beds lined up, military style, the matron, ensuring that everything ran to plan and the sick people coughing and spluttering their germs all over the place. Gary wheeled me in to a darkened room. I could see that normally there would be six beds but this ward only had five. There seemed to be activity at the other end of the unit but this appeared to be a sleepy corner. Along the opposite wall were three recumbent men, in bed, separately. Gary stopped by what would have been the central bed, had there been three beds along this opposite wall, and asked if I needed any help to transfer from the trolley to the bed. Perhaps it was a combination of the dark and it being night time and me having what I now knew was some form of anaemia, but I was freezing and asked Gary if he could find me a blanket and a pillow as the bed was simply a mattress. I knew that the NHS was having a hard time and was being run by civilians but a bed without blankets or pillows was not something you expect to find in a hospital.
I was actually shivering and Gary noticed this as he returned with a pillow and blanket so he didn’t seem to mind me asking for another blanket. I had tried to keep any noises I might have made to a minimum as I didn’t want to disturb the three patients opposite however the new arrival in the bed to my left had different ideas. It was The Scouser. This time I could see everything, the picture was complete for me and I can assure you it was not a pretty one. It was male, about twenty five to thirty years of age, very short if not shaved head with a smattering of tattoos all over his body. To say he had a potty mouth would be an understatement and not a subject often covered by Debrett’s. This surprised me as the police men had gone and the Scouser was accompanied by his father, an uncle and a nurse.
He managed, with great effort and verbal description of the humongous pain he was in, to move himself from the trolley to the bed. This is where he started to notice things. One, there were no pillows, and no blankets plus his television didn’t work. “Nerse!” he rasped like a rag and bone man strangling a rat. “Nerse! I need a blanket and two pillows.” The poor old nurse was trying to get him settled and promised to get him the required bedding as soon as she could. “Ah look!” he complains. “You’ve got to put fukin money in the telly!” This wasn’t a question or a statement but was an invitation for the father and the uncle to get involved in the technicalities of getting the television working. It was one of those horrible things they have in many hospitals these days that sits on the end of a huge extendable arm and pours a stream of shite into some poor persons head.
I didn’t have long to wait before the one of the three of them who could read announced,”Ow much! Five quid for eight hours?” I had no intention of watching any television while in hospital and now that I knew how much they wanted for that privilege I was certain of it. Dick Turpin used to do it with guns. Gary nipped in and told me that he would be off now but that he would probably be back in an hour or two to take me for an x ray. It was one o clock in the morning, I was about to go to sleep, well; Scouser permitting. Details of the stabbing were being discussed in hushed tones between the three fellows, who had done it, what was going to happen to him and what should or should not be said to, ’The Bizzies,’ or as normal people call them, the police. Our Scouse friend had no money with him so had to borrow five pounds from the father and the uncle. This was a complicated affair as counting was involved and then finding the machine where they could convert the cash in to credits for the television. “Nerse!!”
While either the father or the uncle, I’m not sure which, but one of them had gone off to find ‘the machine’ the Scouser, the one in the bed with the stab wound, was complaining that he needed two pillows and some blankets. I was willing to accept this as the fellow might have been in pain and should be allowed a little leeway to express his discomfort. However, and I am sure Debrett’s will back me up here; he began to get quite nasty. Each word or even syllable was drenched in even more alcohol flavoured spittle as he forced his words out. “Nerse! Nerse! I need two fukin pillows and a fukin blanket or I’m going to lose it!” Unfortunately sleep was completely out of the question for me now as I was raging with anger. In my opinion, and I’m sure once again that Debrett’s will back me up, but he was abusing the nursing staff and I wasn’t prepared to allow that to happen.
I waited in case the abuse continued, I expected some sort of confrontation to erupt after I had spoken but I wasn’t that worried as there was no blood in my body so if he hit me, I wouldn’t be bleeding all over the place, plus I was already in hospital so help should be close at hand. The father, or the uncle, returned with the television token and the three of them worked out how to insert it in to the television. The Scouser continued to moan but only to his uncle and his father, he didn’t direct any of his statements to the staff, thankfully. I was still quite tense and was pleased when the father and the uncle left the ward, but should this fellow say anything untoward to any member of staff then he was getting a broadside from me.
He had the television on and had drawn the screen close to his face. Luckily he had headphones on so I wasn’t disturbed by the sound and there wasn’t even that much flickering from the screen. Whatever he was watching must have been very funny for it had me in stitches. It was half past one in the morning, I was lying on a hospital bed, in a dimly lit ward, still wearing my slippers, like a vampire victim without the obligatory teeth marks and I was laughing my head off. The ward had gone all quiet and only one sound now threaded its way through the still night air. The Scouser, who had made such an issue of getting his five pounds to watch the telly, had fallen asleep and was snoring his head off, while his eight hours viewing time ticked away and he still hadn’t been given his fukin pillows or blanket.
It was no surprise yesterday to find a comment from Colonialist but it did make a refreshing change to see that rather than one of his standard insults it was in fact a constructive comment. But it had me wonder how many others had thought along the same lines. I have to admit that he showed real, almost military, strategic thinking. His suggestion was that rather than me being taken to hospital, for nothing more than a severe case of man flu, this could be some devious plot to man nap me where I was to be taken underground to meet some ghastly fate. Quite possible when you think about it, but who in their right mind would not just want to man nap me but even attempt to man nap me.
For starters Irene was with me, that’s more close protection than the Pope has when he nips out of the Vatican for an ice cream. Secondly, I have no known enemies; there are people who are jealous of me, jealous of my good looks, my fantastic legs, my superior intellect and my humble nature. But I don’t think such a person exists who would want to damage me in any way at all, apart from the priests I slag off, the lying, cheating, thieving, scumbag, Paul O Grady, Delia Murphy, whom I promise you we will get back to, and half a dozen or so military men around the world, especially in America. So I’m not really under any personal threat, which is why I wasn’t thinking along those lines, but well done Colonialist, you’re showing promise.
I had collected the top three books off my current reading pile but what I hadn’t done was take my Debrett’s guide, so I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to talk to the man in the back of the ambulance. I wasn’t certain what category he would fall in to as an ambulance man. I decided to treat him simply as working class. My panic or confusion had subsided and I was now fully back in control of my facilities. I began to question the man as to where I was being taken, what department, were they aware that I was coming. I wasn’t expecting red carpets, or a brass band, but a group of fully trained competent medics would be a start.
Praise the Lord for mobile telephones as the ambulance man telephoned the practise nurse, who had ordered my hospitalisation in the first place, Pauline. With a few suggestions from myself I managed to get the pair of them working together so that by the time we had pulled in to the hospital grounds, not only did we know where we were going, but where we were going, knew we were coming. I had managed to by-pass the waiting area in the accident and emergency area, which I have to admit can be quite fun, as an observer, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. So as the lift on the back of the ambulance touched down I was wheeled through a set of doors and taken straight in to the accident and emergency department proper.
I was slotted in to a cubical and left to wait. I didn’t like waiting for you have the time to question your decisions, like for example I was wearing slippers. Now it was four o clock in the afternoon, so a touch early for evening wear, but I was on a bed, well; a sort of bed, so night wear could have been considered appropriate. But I was about to be introduced to people and slippers are not considered formal footwear in any society, unless your name is Hugh Hefner, so I was committing the old social faux pax. If I covered my feet and accompanying slippers with a blanket, thrown across the bottom of the trolley and my feet, in an almost casual manner, then people might not notice and I could forever hold my head high in local society. Then they began to come in, the medics that is. It was all very confusing as I didn’t know who was who or what. I didn’t know who was a nurse, or a doctor, or even a consultant, in fact it could have been the fecking duty cleaner who was poking about my elbows looking for a vein for all that I knew.
At last one person, female flavoured, came in. She was Indian, that’s Asian Indian, not Red feckin Indian. She wore an ill-fitting blue suit with the word ‘Doctor’ printed in heavy thick white letters across the front. She was also very pretty. A young fellow came in and began to fiddle with my elbows. There didn’t seem to be any distinct clothing difference between the different trades so I assumed that the fellow sticking needles in my elbow and wrist was a medic. It was like having a bracelet as one needle had been inserted in to the arm while two or three connectors flopped about on the outside. Someone else was draining blood from my right arm, and filling tiny bottles while another person had wrapped that thingy around my arm and inflated it. Then they all went away.
It could have been quite boring just sitting there, well; I was reclining and Irene was sat sitting, but luckily enough a young fellow who had been stabbed was in the next cubicle and was giving his statement to one of the accompanying police men with him. Normally in accident and emergency departments when someone has been stabbed and is giving a statement to police, the police are usually holding him down and there would be an awful lot of shouting, blood and unnecessary violence. This casualty sounded to be a very nice young man who had found himself to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though he had been stabbed in the leg he didn’t complain, or moan, not about the pain or his treatment. I would hate to think what state I would be in if I had been stabbed in either of my perfect legs. It’s something I don’t wish to even think about.
Now the young fellow who was sticking needles in my left arm comes back in and begins to ask me questions like “Where is all the blood in your body? What have you done with it?” Well; I ask you, how impertinent can you get? It’s my blood and I can do with it what I want. I wasn’t aware that most of it had buggered off, so listened to his questions to see if I could determine what they had found out about my condition. The doctor came back in, the good looking one, and I determined that the young fellow was in fact a junior doctor. Now; I need to explain something to you. I was brought up in a strict Irish Catholic environment; in fact I wasn’t so much brought up, as dragged up. The greatest sin was to be a homosexual, a bottom bandit, an uphill gardener, sure wasn’t it even illegal to be a pillow biter up until nineteen sixty seven. And attitudes didn’t change overnight, so for years, at the back of our small minds was the fear that some rough type of Bum Bandit would jump on us and have his wicked way.
So now that I have explained that, you will understand my reaction when the young fellow, the junior doctor, announces that he is going to insert his fingers in to my bottom to look for my disappeared blood. There was no soft lighting, no music, not even a glass of chilled, white, Pinot Noir, just the elastic snap of a blue medical glove. I’m not sure if Debrett’s covers this sort of thing, I’m sure it does, as it’s full of shit anyway, but I found myself refusing the examination. The junior doctor informs the doctor, the good looking one who now steps forward and asks that I reconsider. I did and the answer was still the same, for a simple Irishman it was all too sudden, I needed time to get my head around what they wanted to do to me after years of brainwashing from the Catholic Church, not to mention the unwanted attention in that area from the pervert priest, no one was touching my arse.
More and more people made their way in and performed their specific function. One nurse took swabs from in and around my little bits and pieces and inside my nose and mouth which I found very strange indeed. Another actually had a look at my bottom which I found very suspect, but if I was missing sixty percent of my blood that I thought they should be looking for a cut, or a hole, where the red stuff would be coming out. Even as a Good Ol Boy I am sure they were missing the basics. I breathed a sigh of relief when the consultant came in. I knew he was a consultant from the moment I laid eyes on him. He was well dressed and immaculately turned out. He too was Asian but I wouldn’t even stab a guess at what part of that huge continent he hailed from. He stood alongside me and I knew that I now had a fellow on a similar intellectual level who would understand me and my decision completely.
It was a bit of a surprise when he too suggested that an examination of my rear end be undertaken. By now, I could see the sense of what they were suggesting but I still couldn’t get my head around it and still refused them permission to proceed. At ten o clock in the evening I telephoned number one son Gerard and asked him to come out and pick up his mother Irene. She wanted to stay but there was no real point. I was to be taken off to a ward for the night and testing would continue first thing in the morning. I looked at the consultant, the doctor and the junior doctor all huddled together at the end of the cubicle I was in and wondered if they had an ulterior motive for playing about with my bottom. I only had forty percent of the blood I should have in my body and was to be admitted for testing and curing. By the time the porter came to take me to my ward it was half past eleven. I knew that the porter wouldn’t want to inspect my bottom as I knew him quite well, it was Gary, an old friend from my taxi driving days, I relaxed, as I knew I was finally in safe hands.
I know that a lot of you, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but I do know that a lot of you like to pretend that you are cultured. This allows us to communicate on a similar level, or at least allows you to pretend that you are on a similar intellectual level as myself, almost. I’m sure it would take a normal person five or six minutes to read each blog, but I do know that many of you spend hours each day looking up the various literary references I put in to liven things up. So for those among you who are really cultured, I expect that you will have seen the magnificent film Das Boot, made in 1981. I also expect that you will have watched the original German version, like all right thinking people will have done. There were many wonderful characters in the film but I would ask you to think about the Obermaschinist, Johann. Johann was also known as Das Gespenst, The Ghost, and dearly loved the engines of the U Boat. Now you remember him, he looked like a scarecrow that just had fifty thousand volts DC applied to his backside.
It was when they were attacked by two destroyers and sank off the Gibraltar coast, don’t worry I’m not giving the story away for any Heathens amongst you who haven’t seen and loved this film, but if you remember the blind panic that Johann, Das Gespenst, went in to that is how I felt inside my head as Pauline stood standing there in our front living, sitting, drawing, parlour, room telling me that she had ordered an ambulance to take me to hospital. I mean there was nothing wrong with me, much, apart from the old Man Flu, all I needed was some magic little pill and everything would have been sorted. After all, she was a medic; she should know things like this. It was as if she was speaking a foreign language. The more advanced cultural geeks among you would now expect me to mention the fact that Johann, Das Gespenst, spoke Austro-Bavarian in the movie rather than the more common Thuringian dialect that most of the crew spoke. But let’s not get in to a discussion about German dialects, all thirty five of them if you exclude the Frisian and Dutch dialects, when we have much more important matters to discuss like me.
So; level one, blind panic had been achieved, rather quickly one might add, and confusion was trying to take over. I used the old technique I had formulated when I was imprisoned at Violent Hell and would be receiving a vicious beating from a priest, or priests, as they occasionally liked to tag team on us little boys. All for my own good I might add. I’m going to have to sit down one day and work out exactly what or how I, as an eleven year old boy, benefited from having a forty year old man beat me silly with a four foot long bamboo cane. Perhaps he was trying to pass some of his Christianity on to me through physical contact, who knows what they were up to. I began to think what I needed for my impending trip to hospital. Once again, like answering the front door, despite the fact that I was about to be lashed to a trolley and be ferried away to hospital, this was no excuse to lower or forget about standards. Go to the previous blog and use the link to Debrett’s guide for social incompetents if you don’t believe me.
First of all was what I should wear, as you all know, and as Mark Twain famously told us, clothes maketh the man. I would be meeting consultants and surgeons and the like and would need to make an immediate and good impression on them. Despite my clear train of thought I had one slight problem which was that all my clothes were upstairs and I wasn’t. Not only wasn’t I upstairs but there was no way on Gods earth that I was getting upstairs either. Pauline is now informing me that I would be on my way within two hours. I now had to accept one of the most difficult facts and situations that all men face now and again, which was to admit that I needed some help. I could probably make it up the stairs, collect all the necessary stuff and get back down again within two hours but the ambulance was arriving within the next two hours, not in two hours’ time.
I telephoned Irene. Ansaphone. I telephoned number one son, Gerard. Ansaphone. The only other person who was close enough and who could help me was son number three, Charles. I telephoned him. Ansaphone. Strange that for the first time in your life, when you actually are prepared to ask for help there’s no one there, this is probably why most men are reluctant to ask for any form of help in the first feckin place. I tried to think what else I should take with me and settled for the top three books off my current reading pile. Pauline has now left, gone back to the medical centre where she would arrange things. I’m not sure what she was arranging but she was wittering on about district nurses coming for blood and that the medical centre was closed on Wednesday afternoons. It was as I began to prepare myself to stand up that the telephone rang.
It was Irene wanting to know what all the panic was about. I waited as she told me off because by telephoning three people, I had panicked and everyone was now worried. I assured her that there was no panic neither was there any cause for panic, all that was happening was that I was off to hospital, probably for the afternoon where I would be given a little white pill, have a nice chat with a couple of consultants or surgeons and everything would be tickety boo. I asked if she could come home for five minutes and help me get a bag together. I find it strange that the Whirling Dervish tells me that I am the one in a panic when she arrives home five minutes before she left work, in a cloud of burning rubber, smoke and screeches that would scare the bejesus out of an itinerant banshee.
The ambulance man arrived before Irene had filled the bag. I didn’t expect to be kept in but still had some pyjamas packed, along with the old toothbrush, assorted cravats and bow ties. Remember you must never lower your standards. The ambulance man wasn’t an ambulance man; in fact he was a ‘First responder.’ The first responder gets to the casualty and determines how sick they actually are and can prepare the ambulance crew who would be racing toward the patient. Just to show me how good he was he contacted the actual ambulance, the big van thing, cause he arrived in an estate car, and asked them how long they were going to be as if it was necessary to get me to the hospital on time, Ding dong the bells are going to chime. He wrapped something around my arm and inflated it, then stuck something in my ear and then jammed a plastic clothes peg type thing on my finger. It wasn’t wine and chocolates but he certainly was a nice man.
Then he started to write things down and I felt a little uneasy as it had been a sort of rolling news story during the recent weeks that your medical records were now going to be sold to anyone with enough of the old folding stuff. So I knew that whatever was written about me would, in a couple of years’ time, be plastered all over the newspaper front pages, if I put one of the proverbial feet in the wrong place, as if such a thing could happen with legs like mine. So I would have to be careful with whatever I said or admitted. Strange that I was thinking now about what I might have to say in a few years’ time. The real ambulance team arrived, effectively blocking the street and ensuring that every available neighbour would be curtain twitching. They too wanted to wrap things around my arm and inflate them but the other fellow assured them that he had done all that, all they had to do was get me in the van and off to hospital.
Hospitals are run by civilians as are the rescue and response services, so it was no real surprise to learn that I was to travel to the furthest hospital in my region rather than the one that was three or four miles away. They didn’t hang about and chivvied me from my big leather seating thing in the room at the front of our house, across the front lawns, and in to their beast of a vehicle. They made me get on to the bed type trolley thing and then strapped me in. The last time I had been in the back of an ambulance would have been on the A5 in North Welsh Wales, in a mad convoy, breaking every rule of the road and racing a helicopter to the casualty. This time there was no explosions or flash, bang, wallops, no Docker figuring out which way the wind doth blow, no excitement or adrenalin rush. This time everything was much more placid, more refined, as perhaps it should be. We arrived. As the rear doors swung open and I began to descend, on the lift, I realised that this time things might be getting a little bit serious.
I’m sure there was a crack of thunder and a snap of lightning as we left Saundersfoot. Using the old smoke and mirrors routine I had pretended that I was in fine health and managed to get myself in to the driving seat of the car. It was unusual for me not to load the car, not only as a gentlemanly act but as a man can pack a car, properly and securely, in one tenth of the time it takes four women. This of course is a scientific fact. I had made sure that the first dose of painkillers had been swallowed exactly one hour before departure so that from the moment I sat in the driving seat I was properly medicated. This time, with shoes on, I was determined to make my way up along the Welsh coast line, the only area of Welsh Wales where I had never been before.
I was sure that is was going to be an interesting journey. Apart from the fact that I had three experienced back seat drivers sat sitting on my back seat, none of whom had ever held a valid driving license, I was guaranteed not just a steady stream of directions but constructive criticism on my ability to drive and how I could improve. On top of that was the added gift, by being in South Welsh Wales, of knowing exactly where you were at all times but not being able to pronounce the name of the place you were in. Saundersfoot was easy but the first village I was aiming for was Dwrbach, followed by Scleddau and so on. No point in asking directions really as place names such as Llwycelyn, Cwmrhydneuadd or Ffos-Y-Ffin, didn’t really compute with the old grey matter.
The only name I was aware of from that area, apart from Tenby and Saundersfoot, was the name Saint Govan, or Gofan, if you want to be true to the language of the area. He was reputed to be an Irishman, don’t these bloody foreigners just get everywhere, coming over here, taking our chapels, anyway, Saint Govan was also reputed to be Sir Gawain, one of the knights from King Arthur’s round table. There’s lots of fantastic stories about Saint Govan and his time in Wales, mainly living on his own, fighting marauding pirates and ringing a silver bell. So you have an Irishman, living on his own, in a small hut, on some sea cliffs. Sounds very much to me like the fellow had a bad case of Man Flu. My only worry was that old Saint Govan might spring back to life as I drove past with over fifty percent of a very active and evil coven resting on the rear seat of my car.
Luckily for me there were no supernatural shenanigans and we slipped by the holy grotto and began to enjoy the coast road. It was a fantastic drive, the road was almost empty and the brightly painted houses along the route certainly brightened up my day. As a request for a rest room stop had been issued from the back seat area I was still bombarded with questions as I slowed down and turned left into a forest. It’s not as if I had driven straight in to the feckin trees, sort of cross country lunatic, but was following the heavily signposted road that told me, and anyone else who cared to read the signs, that it led to a rest area with toilets, picnic tables and litter bins. I do like to see litter bins, especially in their natural environment in the wild, so it was only as I pulled up next to the toilet block that the proverbial penny dropped. I opened my door, threw my legs out and began to stretch. It was nice to see the back seat drivers take health and safety to an extreme and ask if it was okay to get out of the vehicle, putting me to shame once again.
I was pretty happy lying there; in fact it started to rain. Can you imagine being in the middle of a huge forest, in the middle of South Welsh Wales in the rain, it was close to perfect for me. I say close to perfect as my back seat drivers now scurried about trying to find somewhere out of the rain so that they could finish their cigarettes in peace. I even encouraged them to have a second cigarette, not that I was interested in building up their nicotine levels but in order for me to have another few minutes enjoying the rain and the trees. By the time we were close to home, and I mean about half an hour away they started planning who should be dropped off first. Normally I am a very placid guy and as they say back home, I wouldn’t say boo to a goose, but this infuriated me.
I had been driving for five and a half hours and now I was expected to drop each one of my passengers off at their respective house, where their respective partners sat watching football, or Jeremy Kyle, or Jeremy Kyle playing football. Not only did I just want to get home and stretch out on the settee, oh by the way I’m very sorry I lied to you all yesterday. I actually checked with Debrett’s guide for simpletons, morons, and pretentious prats, after I finished the blog yesterday and discovered that I hadn’t been stretched out on my settee, or couch, I had actually been stretched out on a sofa. And apart from apologising for that I feel that I also have to apologise for the other despicable lie I told which was that I wasn’t in my front room, or parlour, or living room or lounge, when in fact I had been in either my drawing room or sitting room. I never knew we had so many fecking rooms in our wee house, but here’s a link to Debrett’s just to prove to you that these idiots not only actually exist, but they really do practise this bullshit. http://www.debretts.com/british-etiquette/british-behaviour/t-z/u-and-non-u
Irene caught the twist in my face as I made sure I didn’t scream out loud and she suggested that I drop everyone at the mother in law’s house, where they could be picked up and ferried about by their own partners or children. It took a while for the practicality of the situation to sink in to my three back seat drivers but eventually they accepted that this is what was going to happen whether they liked it or not. Women should not be allowed anywhere near the luggage compartment of a motorcar, especially if there is luggage in it. Everything had to come out and be positioned round the rear of my car so that they could not only sort through everything but that they could ensure that I couldn’t move. I suppose it’s always the case that when you plan or organise something so that you can save a few minutes Mister Murphy comes along with his bloody law and you’re scuppered.
By the time we got to our wee house my legs were like cartoon thumbs. Luckily there were no photographs taken so I could still retain the title of having the loveliest legs in all of Ireland and I actually think I was starting to look forward to the medics coming on the Tuesday as this Man Flu was hanging about far too long. Irene was tired so went to bed early; I knew that I couldn’t make it up the stairs so settled in for the night where I was. Of course I got the old lecture first thing the following morning, ’What was I doing sleeping on the settee? This was a living room not a bedroom.’ I was tempted to point out to Irene that she was technically incorrect but as she was preparing some bacon in the kitchen, or food preparation area, or whatever the posh name is for the room with the sink and cooker, with a huge carving knife in her right hand, I decided against it. Even though I was in the grip of Man Flu I wasn’t taking any chances.
As for the ‘going to see the doctor’ I had sort of escaped. I had explained that my appointment was at twelve o clock on the Tuesday. This was accepted until the Monday evening when I was asked who I was going to see. I confessed that not only were the medics coming to see me but that rather than a doctor I had the practise nurse lined up to inspect me. Unfortunately, and as most men understand, not only was this statement accepted, but it was accepted gladly, as Irene now declared that she was delighted to know that she could participate in the consultation. If it had been capable of moving, my heart would have sank. Not only was the poor old nurse going to be getting a telling off but so would I for being sick in the first place.
Twelve o clock on the Tuesday came, and then went, but the practise nurse didn’t. Lots of other times came and went, like half past twelve or a quarter to one, even half past one, but still the practise nurse didn’t show. The clock kept pushing on and Irene left for work. It was such a relief to be left alone, knowing that I could deal with the practise nurse, Pauline, if and when she ever showed up, which she did, at half past two. I managed to get myself to the front door and opened it, inviting her in. It doesn’t matter how close you are to death, you must never lower your standards, just check with Debrett’s if you don’t believe me. I got back to where I was sitting, honestly I couldn’t be arsed looking back to see if it was a couch or a settee or a fecking sofa, but it was a big black leather thing that could seat three people comfortably and my arse was on it.
I expected that Pauline and I would begin our normal banter and she would then listen to my prognosis that I had Man flu, she would give me a little pill and everything would be tickety-boo. I must admit medicine has really moved on since I was a practitioner. Rather than take my temperature, or blood pressure, she had taken out her mobile telephone. I knew that they had some weird and wonderful app’s on these things so waited to see what, ‘Star Wars’ type device she would use to determine my health. Probably give me a chest x ray and fix my teeth at the same time. She used the app that the telephone was designed for which was the. ‘Make a telephone call.’ As she listened to the ring tone, by holding the telephone up to her ear, she informed me that the consultation was over, she was calling an ambulance, I was going to hospital.
It was dark when I finally chose a service area on the motorway to pull in and refuel. I had half-heartedly played the old, ‘Will I, won’t I?’ game with my remaining fuel and the distance to the next petrol station. All I needed was one of those petrol pumps that accepted your payment card, which of course I now discovered did not exist at this particular service area. I rolled up to the petrol pump, closest to the door to the shop and payment station, and, holding on to the car, filled her up. There was nothing else I could do but take a deep breath and head for the payment desk. The gentleman, manning the desk, a bloody foreigner like myself, was quite surprised to see me collapse against the counter and do the only thing I could, which was to raise my right hand, the international symbol for, “Please give me a second to get my breath back.”
I was quite surprised at how exhausted I was over what had to be a fifty yard stroll. I handed over my payment card and couldn’t have cared less about how much I was being charged as my main worry was if I could actually make it back to the car. I knew that if I fell over I wasn’t getting back up and the chance of me falling over was quite high. The old military mentality took over and I knew my only option was to get the proverbial chin stuck up in the air, ignore any pain and march my way back to the car. Or as Debrett’s guide states; ‘Hold your head high, keep your back straight and pull your shoulders back. Tread lightly (no clumping, thundering footsteps), and don’t drag your feet or shuffle.’ Shuffle? Moi? With the loveliest legs in all of Ireland? How dare they even suggest such a thing.
I glanced about to see if there were any barriers or units that I could use for support but there wasn’t, I would have to walk past row upon row of chocolate bars which I knew would end up all over the floor if I reached out for support. I got to the main door and as it was one of these automatic fellows couldn’t use it for support, so continued on out praying that I could make it to the car, which I did. I opened the driver’s door and fell onto the seat, where I sat for a good ten minutes, arse on the seat, left elbow on the passenger seat and legs stretched out through the open driver’s door across the forecourt.
At least I had a full tank of fuel which would see me home. I didn’t worry too much that I had to actually lift my legs in to the car and place them on the pedals. It was quite sore shifting up through the gears and bringing the car back up to cruising speed, despite the fact that most of my journey had been restricted due to fecking roadwork’s, I was really glad that I had not taken either of the county routes. A normal person may have worried about the physical state I found myself in but as a Good Ol Boy I knew that my Man Flu was probably at or around its peak. A couple of days rest would soon see me back to my old form, so arriving home, incident free, I made my way to the front room and the settee and stretched out. Once again if someone would like to check with Debrett’s, social guide for idiots, wannabes and pretentious drongo’s, you can tell me if I was in my front room, my lounge, sitting room or parlour and of course If I was on the settee or couch. Being posh isn’t half difficult at times.
So that really was it, I had completed the journey relatively incident free and was now safely back at home. I still had the promise to contact the medics to deal with, which had two escape clauses in for me, one, I hadn’t promised exactly when I might contact the medics and two, I hadn’t promised what flavour of medic I might contact, although phoning my dentist might be stretching my luck a wee bit too far. Sunday was bliss; in fact man heaven might be closer to the truth. I wasn’t out of breath, basically because I didn’t walk anywhere. I didn’t throw up, because I didn’t eat anything, and nobody told me I looked like I was at death’s door, as I didn’t see anyone, so under the rules of Man Flu I was getting better, if not completely healed. This would encourage me to think of the old expression, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ which some of you will know is a sort of double edged sword type of thing, which we haven’t the time or space to go in to here.
So it was nine o clock on Monday morning and I found myself telephoning the medics. It was like one of those out of body experiences where I was floating around the living room watching myself. I could only think back to Saundersfoot in South Welsh Wales when Susan, the sister, sat beside me and asked me to promise that I would contact the medics. She was holding my hand, pretending that she cared, and I am sure she stuck a needle in my hand, so I understood that I was not breaking any of the rules associated with Man Flu or dealing with Man Flu, and that I was subject to black magic. I was under a spell, so accepted my fate. I explained to the receptionist that I needed the practise nurse to come out and visit me at home. This of course prompted all sorts of question as to why they should visit me! If I was ill I should visit them, it was as the temptation to slam the telephone back on to the receiver began to grow that I, counted to ten very quickly, and then explained I couldn’t walk, was constantly throwing up and was expected to die within the following day or two by anyone who seen me that they agreed to send the practise nurse over to see me.
I had fulfilled my promise, despite the use of black magic, and hoped my medical appointment would satisfy her who must be obeyed, especially as the appointment was eight days away, I also needed to keep myself alive for eight days so they wouldn’t have wasted their time coming out to see me. Spending a week on the settee when Irene was away was quite a normal occurrence for me as I remembered that the previous year I had put my back out and really couldn’t move for the whole five days. I know the more observant amongst you are now reaching for you writing pads as five days does not equal one week and you all feel a need to point this out to me. Well; I know five days does not make a week, not all the time. On the first day I have to drive to South Welsh Wales, and return home. Add five, and guess what happens on the seventh day? Go on I dare you. That’s right I have to go back to South Welsh Wales.
The theory that resting for five days would build up my batteries and allow me some relief for the return journey didn’t really work as after ten minutes in to the drive I was exhausted. However as it was Man Flu I took the appropriate action by opening the window and turning the music up. I’m a great believer in pain diversion which is a theory I suppose I am going to have to explain to some of you lot. We used it in the military a lot so let me warn you now in order to use these methods you got to be pretty tough and a little stupid, well; perhaps more than a little. Say for example you cut a finger off your left hand, it’s sore. Well; you punch a wall with your right so you now concentrate on your sore right hand while the left hand doesn’t hurt at all, or much. All you do now is find the missing digit, put it in a bag of frozen peas and take it to the hospital where the medics will sew it back on.
The only drawbacks with these advanced medical approaches is that there’s usually not many freezers lying about on battlefields, especially with frozen peas in, and if you hit the wall too hard with your right hand sometimes you are unable to hold the fecking peas. That’s if you can find any. However, on the whole, the theory of pain diversion is sound and I was using it to its full extent on my drive down. You see pretending to be nice to me I had been invited down to Saundersfoot to spend the Friday night, rest up and drive back on the Saturday. You are all probably thinking what a nice bunch of people my wife, her sisters and my mother in law are to actually care so much for me. If they cared so much for me they wouldn’t have asked me to drive at all so I was thinking more along the lines of The Wicker Man and as Man flu gave an impression of being close to death that they would use this as an excuse to cover my eventual incineration.
Once again I had come down through the centre of Welsh Wales. It was a lovely drive and very, very, safe as I wore shoes. It was very like Ireland, well; parts of Wales were like parts pf Ireland and therefore the journey was lovely and comfortable, which was more than I was. Despite the week on the couch I was suffering which I put down to a severe relapse of Man flu. I arrived at the house in Saundersfoot and as I couldn’t see a wicker man in the rear garden knew they had probably erected it on the beach, which made sense, as all the evidence would be washed away at high tide. Everyone told me how ill I looked and offerings of food were placed before me. I was told that the sausages were local and handmade, which pleased me greatly as I hate sausages made by someone’s feet. I knew the sausages would contain some form of drug that would placate me as they marched me in to the wicker man and offered me to their God.
Well thank you all very much for your kind words and felicitations after yesterday’s triumphant return. Unfortunately, as I have not insisted on some form of assessment, or selective testing, to determine who should be, or should not be, members of The Illuminati, there are those who tend to submit negative comments. People like Colonialist, who love to speculate about what might happen next, incorrectly I might add, through to the lady from Scottish Scotland who complained that yesterday’s blog ended far too abruptly. I’ll try my hardest to accommodate you both today. This is the thanks you get for dragging yourself from your death bed to this computer keyboard and not only producing the daily fifteen hundred words, which should get me a, ‘Value for money’ award, if one existed, when in fact, despite my severe and debilitating illness saw me produce nineteen hundred and forty words yesterday. I suppose that I will have to accept that my true greatness will not be universally recognised until about four hundred years after my death.
So let me take you back four hundred years to Saundersfoot in South Welsh Wales, on the coast, by the sea. I was sat sitting on my big leather settee, could someone check with Debrett’s Social guide and see if I was sitting on a settee or a couch, I couldn’t be arsed doing it myself at the moment. I was sat sitting there and noticed that my allotted half an hour break was up. I would have to move, which I discovered that I couldn’t. This was not some aggressive branching out of the severe case of Man Flu I was suffering from, but a combination of me not being able to stand and the settee, or couch, being far too low to the ground. This was not Man Flu, this was physics. Irene, her sisters and the Mother in Law had all given up telling me how ill I looked and were now scurrying about looking in cupboards and rooms deciding who would sleep where and why. In fact I don’t think there were enough padded cupboards to accommodate the lot of them.
Someone even suggested that I stay the night, have a rest and travel back the following day. Apart from the fact that I had calculated my daily medicine intake from my set off time, still prominent on the back of my left hand in black ink, I had read enough Terry Pratchett books to know that magic had a life of its own, could leak from room to room, and could get up to all sorts of frivolous tricks on its own. Now that the coven had formed properly I wasn’t about to hang around and participate in a replay of the opening scene from the Scottish Play. The Mother in law was now complaining that I had got us lost on the way down, as I had only switched on the Sat Nav about ten miles from Saundersfoot. In her opinion if I had switched it on sooner we would have arrived much earlier at the house. During a moment when the room I was in was empty, apart from myself of course, I managed to get myself to stand up.
I could see in the reflection in the huge glass windows that I looked a fine fellow indeed, nothing ill or sick about me at all, apart from the Man Flu. I made it to the downstairs toilet and having used the facilities gave myself an extra minute or two, resting, to get my breath back. My next break for it was my final required burst of energy that saw me get through the front door and back in to the driving seat of my car. I pulled out a map and began to plan my return route. Of the three routes suggested to me by the RAC, the Royal Automobile Club, I had wanted to return along the Welsh coast. Driving North to about mid Welsh Wales then cut across Snowdonia, through all the tiny hamlets and villages I knew and loved so well. The route I had taken down, through the centre of Welsh Wales had been pleasant enough; in fact I had mentioned to Irene that it reminded me of my childhood in Ireland, the small roads, cottages, fields, crops, animals and the smells of the countryside.
But the slipper problem, not just coming off and jamming themselves under the pedals, but not having anyone to get them back on for me, was going to be a problem. It left me with only one option which was the third route, the motorway. Not only was the motorway direct and theoretically faster, it was eighty miles longer. It was also boring which normally in itself is no great problem but it might be when you tend to fall asleep all the time. I don’t think I was narcoleptic, unless off course narcolepsy is a part of Man Flu, but as the motorway route had no roundabouts my slippers might stay on for the whole journey, so the probability of crashing was greatly reduced. I was wondering if I could keep myself awake by eating and throwing up for most of the journey and wondering what sort of music would best accompany that type of behaviour when Irene came out to check on me. She made sure that I had plenty of sandwiches and drinks and wished me well.
I fired up the old horses and meandered my way along the lanes in Saundersfoot. I hoped they would have an enjoyable time in Saundersfoot as I knew I couldn’t spend more than five minutes there without getting arrested for murder. There’s a motorway that runs across the South coast of Welsh Wales, the M4 motorway. Unfortunately it runs all the way from London, meaning that every Friday evening there is an exodus from London of brainless, chinless wondering, freaks driving BMW’s and Range Rovers at breakneck speed from their London pad to their Welsh holiday home. For simplicity’s sake you can say that anything living below the motorway, between the road and the sea, is English and pretending to be posh. In fact so posh they can’t eat chips with their fingers. While anything within a fifty mile range north of the motorway, between the road and the slag heaps, is a member of the Viet Taff freedom fighters. Hardy men and women who keep Landrovers and whippets in their front rooms, believe that singing in choirs makes the world spin and accept that Sundays are for fishing and drinking beer, after church.
There’s nothing worse than finding what you think is a remote country pub and settling yourself in for a bite to eat and a small libation, when you are forced to listen to the next table’s conversation. Their most popular subject is of course property prices, followed by skiing and then how all the problems in the country are caused by the bloody foreigners, especially the Polish. This is the thanks the Polish get for joining the British military in their thousands during the Second World War. However despite the two thousand four hundred and eight Polish airmen killed during the Second World War they were still not allowed to join in the Victory Parade in London in June 1946. They should have taken the hint then. I wasn’t planning on visiting any Welsh hostelries so headed off for the motorway route.
Being a maths geek I was testing myself against my Sat Nav. Although I would now have an extra eighty miles to drive, my top average speed would be somewhere in the region of seventy miles per hour, plus the ten per cent variance I understood was given to police speed cameras. Added to this would of course be if any police cars were in sight which could produce a cumulative figure in the region of one hundred miles per hour. So the extra eighty miles would reduce itself to a matter of minutes once the old motorcar was given its head. I smiled as I crossed the Severn Bridge as the last time I had crossed it I was hanging out of a car, travelling at seventy miles per hour, having a sword fight with a Captain from the Royal Marines who was I am ashamed to say a little the worse for drink. He of course was in another car and it was imperative that I won the engagement as our car would regain the bottle of Pusser’s rum we were fighting for.
As I left the bridge I came across my first set of road works which were saturated with speed cameras that calculated your average speed. At fifty miles per hour I began to wonder if I had made the correct decision. My slippers had stayed on, I hadn’t fallen asleep, or at least I don’t think I had. I hadn’t thrown up, as I hadn’t eaten anything, so began to re-calculate my exact time of arrival back home. This was proving to be difficult as it appeared that most of the journey back home, plus the extra eighty miles, was all restricted to either a forty, or fifty, mile an hour speed limit and all watched with the computer driven speed cameras meaning that the speed limits had to be observed.
The journey now became ultra-boring, not only that but it was getting dark and my yawning was becoming more frequent. I began to play the only game that was really left to me and which many people engaged in while driving on motorways. How much fuel have I left? Every now and again a sign will appear saying that the next motorway service area is six miles away and the one after that is thirty miles away. You check and see that you can safely make the thirty mile service area. But as the journey continues and your fuel reserve diminishes, things begin to get interesting. You might have thirty miles left in your tank and the next service area is five miles away with the next being thirty two, can you make the thirty two? I of course had the Royal Automobile Club to back me up but decided not to chance it as the last time I had called them out they turned up with television cameras.
Imagine, you’re sat sitting at home, futering away in your workshop. The mention that you are in your workshop should indicate to people that you are in workshop clothes. The sort of clothes that mop up paint splatters and wax, where small rips and tears remind you of the blade that nearly took its pound of flesh. The sort of clothes that ensure your good clothes don’t get dirty. Then the telephone rings. Wife needs picking up so, without thinking, for as you know keeping her waiting is not allowed, do you secure the house or change your clothes? It’s dark, it’s raining, she’s only five minutes away. It’s at times like these that you get a puncture and boy did I. With it being dark and raining you can assume that it was cold so I dispatched wife off home with a friend and called out the Royal Automobile Club.
Twenty minutes was about all it took them. I had tried to remove the punctured wheel myself but the darn thing was really stuck on. I couldn’t budge it. It was a relief to see the bright day-glow orange van pull in and drive up to me, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the spotlights coming out through the passenger doors, attached to the television cameras which were being held and operated by camera people. I am stood standing in the rain, looking like a tramp that has just been through a hay bailer, as the RAC operative explains that they are filming real clients to put on their television commercials, he assumed I would have no objection. What could I say, or do? All I could think of was one of dear old Oscar Wilde’s quotes, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
It is very tempting to misuse that quote that was incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain, where he was reported to have said, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” It’s great to be back, but truthfully I don’t want to be here. I do, I desperately want to write, my poor wee head is full of ideas and stories that I want to tell you, but I know that I am not firing on all four cylinders yet, not that I have four cylinders. I think, knowing the type of beast that I am, it would be more appropriate to describe me in horse power, but at the moment it’s more like the little donkey. I’m afraid to start this blogging, by the way I’m going to change that awful name of blogging, it sounds like something you do during the long winter evenings. Anyway, I’m glad to be back, but I’m afraid that I might fall over again tomorrow, or the next day, and disappoint many of you all over again.
So; let’s have a go anyway. Let’s open the old creative taps and see what we can fill the Belfast sink up with. The story, the blog, had a nice structure to it; it was, as they say in literary circles, consecutive. All the stories apart from being the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, were all connected. There was a timeline to the project, a structure, and me and my frail humanness went and broke that timeline. So rather than shoot straight back to Manchester and the evil, corrupt and conniving Delia, I thought I would spend a few words, or pages, describing what I have just been through. See if I am able to produce my fifteen hundred daily words again. Some of you might like to take notes; some of you may want to avert your eyes, for once again the double top secret cabal who are preparing me to take the throne of Ireland didn’t hold back.
Think of the torture scene at the end of Braveheart, of course you will have to replace the Australian actor with a real man, a Celt, loveliest legs in Ireland, which by the way is why the kilt was invented, but I’ll tell you all about that another day. Being one of the cleverest people in the world has its drawbacks. When faced with doctors and consultants I tend to lie back and let them get on with whatever it is they want to do as I would probably have come up with the same conclusion that they did. The closest I can come to this situation is the image of the torture scene in Braveheart, me on a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and nurses and consultants and a passing car mechanic, all hacking away at me, pulling and prodding like piranhas ripping away my very flesh. This time there was a slight difference in our opinion as I couldn’t stand and couldn’t walk. My appetite was gone and whatever I did eat, came straight back up again. Many of you would probably panic, but, being a fully qualified, advanced, mountain rescue first aider, I knew that I had a case of Man Flu.
Man Flu as many of you know, falls in to the same category as hangovers, which of course I have already proven do not exist, it is actually pillow abuse and my final paper and conclusions have been sent to Sweden so that I can accept the Nobel prizes in Physiology, Medicine, Chemistry, Physics and probably Literature as well. It is a widely known fact that Man Flu exclusively attacks the XY chromosome carrier. Medical professionals now also widely recognise that self-diagnosis by the sufferer is the best means of identification as the symptoms of Man Flu are far more severe than the simple common cold which predominantly targets the XX chromosome holders (i.e. females). This goes some way to explain the cynicism some women display towards their male counterparts. If Man Flu is kind enough not to kill the infected party it will definitely leave him weak, sick, hurting everywhere and in dire need of TLC. So it would be safe to say that TLC was missing in this case, in fact, despite the fact that a normal person would think I was at deaths door, Irene informed me that I was to drive herself, her mother and two of her sisters, four hundred miles to Saundersfoot, near Tenby.
I didn’t mind as that is where Tim got married, Saundersfoot, and it would be nice to see the old place again. Irene, her mother and her sisters, book a cottage for one week every year and the six or seven of them, I can never remember exactly how many of them there are, spend a man free week and relax. Muggins here is normally expected to drive the four from this area while the others make their own way from whichever coven they are residing in that season. So, have I mentioned how clever I am, I realised that my legs were swelling, quite badly in fact to the point where I experienced that sensation normal people know as pain. The preverts among you will be glad to know that I bound myself up, before the drive, by slipping in to some rubber stockings.
I had these made at a local hospital and they tend to be quite effective. I was going to pull on a sturdy pair of shoes. This was more to do with the fact that you should never leave the house unless properly dressed, so the incidents of youngsters slouching about the local shopping centre in pyjamas has me apoplectic at times. I knew that because of my lack of mobility I wasn’t going to leave the vehicle apart from one fuel stop, somewhere. I also knew or expected that my feet, being at the end of my lovely legs, would also swell so decide to wear a pair of soft slippers. These would allow me to comfortably drive the car and allow some swelling and, hopefully, cut down on the pain factor. I bet you are all now wishing you were as clever as me. Like all good military men I wrote down the time I took my first pain killers on the back of my left hand so that I could refer to it all day long and pace out my pain medication. Three routes were recommended to me by the RAC, that’s the Royal Automobile Club, for Royals like me, not the one with big day-glow orange breakdown and recovery vans.
I decided to cut straight through Welsh Wales, hoping and expecting a nice drive with lots of scenery, sheep and stuff. It was mostly, well; the initial stage of the journey, was mostly duel carriageway broken up with fecking roundabouts. I found that I was having to lift my legs with my hands to reposition my feet on the pedals and the constant movement kept pulling the slippers off my feet. Margaret, one of Irene’s sisters was quite busy in the rear of the car shouting at any male manual types we passed, making lewd suggestions about what she would like to do with their shapely bottoms, whether they had one or not. The mother in law was complaining about the sandwiches she had made, Marlene, the other sister, was asleep, while I sat at the steering wheel wondering if I should tell Irene that my slippers had come off and were jammed under the accelerator and brake pedals and we were now in quite a dangerous situation.
The journey was now interspersed with frequent stops were Irene would get out, come around to my side of the vehicle, extricate my slippers and pull them back on my feet. Of course I would have to choose spots where Welsh manual workers couldn’t catch up to us, as although there may have been a language difference they still may have understood classic quotes like, “Yack e da boyo, how’s yer bum for spots?” To say that the journey was tense would be an understatement. In fact I was able to determine that the stress levels were, ‘Off the scale,’ as at one point I ejected the CD currently playing and threw it out of the window, a sure sign that meditation should be considered. I did have the Sat Nav going in the background but didn’t turn the volume up until I was seven or eight miles away from Saundersfoot. Gertie, that’s what I call my Sat Nav, one, because the command voice is female and two, because it is her name. Gertie took over and the map began sprouting red lines along lanes that ran from the main duel carriageway to the seaside and Saundersfoot.
As we passed the chapel where Tim had got married and the vicar had subsequently banned us from the graveyard, Saint Issell’s, I smiled as a wedding was taking place. Unfortunately it looked quite normal as there were no sword fights going on and the graveyard seemed relatively explosion free, although things may have livened up later, you never know. I arrived at the house, which was attached to the police station and I couldn’t help but wonder if some of them may be staying for a little longer that one week, especially Margaret. Being the gentleman that I am and showing my wholehearted belief in equality I allowed the ladies to carry their own luggage in to the house as I had enough problems carrying myself in. I found a leather settee facing the ocean and plonked myself in to it.
It was their week and I didn’t like hanging about so I gave myself half an hour before I would set off again. I was exhausted, my legs had swollen as had my feet, I was in horrendous pain, but as any man will tell you I accepted it as my fate, the fate of the married man. Unfortunately one of Irene’s sisters had been a nurse and I now came under the spotlight. First of all it started with the “I don’t think you look well,” which is like someone pointing at the ocean and saying, “That looks wet!” I had just experienced a long, tense, drive, of course I would look tired, or unwell, or whatever, plus, I had a little bit of Man Flu. Susan then sits down and actually asks me to promise that I will go and see a doctor, which some of you will have already guessed that I was thinking on nipping over to Manchester and getting out on the rip with Adrian, well; he is a doctor.
And that is where it all started going wrong. Sure, I had been suffering with Man Flu for a couple of weeks, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand, couldn’t do very much actually. Was always falling asleep, which I thought would make the return journey, on my own, very interesting, and anything I ate was coming straight back up. There was only one thing to do, all right two, but the first was to get back home, close the curtains and get on the settee, it’s the only way to deal with Man Flu, and then there was the second thing, go to the doctors, a promise is a promise, like never leaving the house unless properly dressed, its just one of those things you have to do. But the thing is I had promised to go and see a medic, I never said nothing about a doctor.
For those of you who noticed, I’m very sorry. For those who didn’t; carry on. Some sort of illness had me in its grip and everything just went from bad to worse. I don’t really want to tell you about it, as it would feel I was after some sympathy but what happened was interesting. I sort of lost all strength in my body, couldn’t stand without going dizzy, and couldn’t walk more than ten feet without thinking my heart was coming out through my chest. Then the sleep pattern went skew whiff, to say the least. I missed one day between part 394 and 395, which annoyed me as I have always claimed writers and artists use these things as excuses. However, the worst possible thing that could happen came along, as the black dog decided to give me a short visit.
This is so different than the so called writer’s block, as I knew exactly what I wanted to write about next, but I couldn’t be bothered. I felt that I had to inform you, The Illuminati, but again couldn’t be bothered. This is not an insult to you, but simply a statement of fact that many of you who are familiar with the black dog, or as normal people call it, depression, know that you have to suffer your way through it. Yet while in the pits of despair things got even worse as I lost all confidence in my writing. On the one side of my brain, running in a sort of loop, was the next blog, me, Delia and the Devil, all skittering about, funny situations lining up that would hopefully make you, The Illuminati, smile, while on the other side of my brain I was asking who in their right mind would want to read this sort of shit.
It’s not very nice sitting there watching your confidence slide away from you, so rather than not being able to write anything, you can’t. I could mention other writers who have endured similar setbacks, but I shall not. And then, the strangest thing of all happens. Way down, deep in the darkness of the mind I found a diamond. As you know the blog is being turned in to three novels and the most important aspect, for me, at the moment, was to find the opening line for the first novel, and there it was. I found it. Couldn’t really celebrate but I knew that the line was perfect and was able to scribble down some notes as to what should follow. So perhaps the journey was worth it. The black dog is still sitting there watching me, I can smell it’s damp coat and it knows it is not welcome. I’m looking forward to getting a full night’s sleep but more importantly I’m looking forward to hopefully making you all smile again. Perhaps, this is a sign that things are getting better.
Normal service will hopefully resume shortly.
I suppose most situations I had been faced with, throughout my life, were basically to test me, to test my resolve. To make sure that when I was ready to take the throne of Ireland I would be a forthright, decent and honest human being. Is there anybody in this world that sees a politician’s lips move and doesn’t think, ‘They are lying.’ And the pretence with which people approach most subjects amazes me. I was used to individuals in the armed forces ridiculing Irish people, but I had come to become proud of our forthrightness. And before any of you start coughing and asking about the politicians in Northern Ireland, they are not people. Even the stupid knuckle draggers in Northern Ireland speak their mind, or what’s left of their minds, after the glue sniffing and Buckfast sessions.
The double top secret cabal, who were organising my training, had placed me in some very interesting situations where I had become used to proper debate. Where it was how you presented the facts, how you structured your argument that decided if you would win your side of the dispute and always to be truthful. But no matter how good you were or how good you thought you were, there would always be some other form of life that would come in and cut the legs from underneath you. Those of you with your finger on the pulse will know that I am referring to Delia. She was an amazing woman, and I don’t mean that in a nice way, tigers are nice, but you wouldn’t get in a cage with one. I had seen her scream and shout at social workers where she would have planned the whole thing in her head. She would know exactly what she was about to do and say and nothing could stop her.
She surrounded herself with religious icons, which should be a warning to anyone. It’s like they say, faith healers don’t work in hospitals in the same way as psychics don’t win the lottery. I’ve seen her reduce team leaders to tears with a simple growl and I’ve lost count of the number of people with learning disabilities who wanted to kill her. It all indicated a very evil and nasty person and what did she look like I hear many of you ask? Describe her to me; paint a picture in words of the beast that was Delia. Well; sorry I can’t, don’t get me wrong, my mastery of the English language and my skills on the old Qwerty keyboard would allow me to hammer out a description so accurate that none of you would sleep for a week. My legal counsel tells me that I should not, because this blog does not have an X rating, yet, and exorcisms don’t come cheaply these days. However what I can tell you is that Delia used to like informing people that she looked like Krusty the Clown, a character from the popular television programme, ‘The Simpsons.’ This actually allows a certain amount of legal distance between the claim and my perception of her as I have never watched one episode of The Simpsons, ever, and I have no intention of starting now.
So, if you are all sitting comfortably, let’s begin. I was being given my monthly assessment by Delia. There was just the pair of us in her office and she was moving through the form as she had done month after month beforehand. She had just recommended me to be considered as the next CEO for the Liverpool branch of NWCS, which would have made me her equal. At that moment I was her deputy, the senior service manager, not just in Manchester but in Liverpool as well. She told me that she knew I was unhappy in Manchester that the journey was too much for me. I don’t think I had ever said such a thing to anybody, not even myself. There wasn’t much you could do going to work in the morning, apart from trying to stay awake, so if any part of the journey was difficult it would be the return trip in the evening. But my air force training had put me in good stead for that one. I had my very own diversionary airfield all lined up.
Well; it wasn’t so much a diversionary airfield as a medical centre. One of the good old boys from Warrenpoint was working in an area of Manchester that I had to pass by every evening. It was dangerous going anywhere near him as, being a good old boy, he loved single malt whisky and the odd spliff, which of course we would never indulge in, not with him being a doctor and me the next King of Ireland. I’m not even going to tell you his name or give any indication of where his practise is, not because I don’t want to embarrass him but because he promised to give me any medication I wanted, or needed, under the, “A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man,” rule, which in Warrenpoint we hold very dear to our hearts. Oh, and by the way Adrian, I need another tin of those medicinal cigarettes, as the cough is really bad this week, not to mention the stress. And before any of you have a flashback to, ‘Celtic Illumination, part 53, Smoking a spliff at the Queens house,’ no, that was not him, that was Finbar, who is a doctor in Belfast. Sorry, I digress, it was strange hearing that I wasn’t happy working in Manchester and if the truth be told, I wasn’t. But only because there weren’t enough hours in the day and the people I had to work with were stage two cretins, at best.
And anyway I couldn’t leave Adrian alone; his wife was a psychiatrist and loved having little chats with me. I think she knew, or at least sensed, my regal background and prepared for my, ‘Outing,’ so to speak, as she was always taking notes when we spoke. So to hear this from Delia was indeed a bit strange but she continued. She knew that there were vacancies in Liverpool for service managers, so she suggested that I go and have a quiet word with Garry and find myself a nice cushy position in Liverpool. Truthfully I had been looking for a new job as I really was not impressed with Delia and her tactics. I could also see that I probably could do more for people with learning disabilities from a more senior position, but being deputy director of operations in Manchester was not it. I could see that I was going to have to find a position in either a much larger company or with a government body.
I soon found myself outside the Liverpool office with Garry who was as usual sucking away on a nicotine stick and checking his tattoos in the reflection in the double glass doors. For some time I had been letting off steam to Garry, mainly about Delia, but this day he seemed to forget anything I had ever said. I didn’t expect any dirty tactics from Garry. He was your bog standard, working class, tattooed, Liverpool football club supporter, who shaved his head every morning and then cultivated his goatee beard, making him look like Ming the fecking merciless. Despite the fact that I was his deputy, Garry told me that he had already advertised the three service manager positions and couldn’t very well step back and declare that there were now only two. A lot of people were interested in putting themselves forward for these positions. I was offended.
The team leaders in Liverpool, who had put themselves forward for consideration for service manager, were all friends of mine, even the ones who didn’t like me, and I didn’t want to scupper any of their chances. But I had worked well for the people the company supported; it was even Garry who after my initial interview for NWCS had told me that I was a fecking star. The only choice I had, according to Garry, was that I put myself forward for consideration along with the team leaders, and he would choose the best three on the day. In response I may have used one or two swear words and in the correct order too. I already was a service manager, in fact I was the senior service manager and if he wasn’t able to make such a decision I would take it to the directors.
I think it would be safe to say that Garry and I fell out, our friendship floundered. It was a tricky situation because I knew that I was leaving Manchester. It wasn’t a feeling I had in my water, no, it was something much more definite than that. Delia had already chosen my replacement. She had told me that I was to interview her daughter and give her my job. Her daughter would be the only candidate for the position of deputy director of operations but I wasn’t to make it too obvious. As I drove back to Manchester I knew my only option was to get Delia to use her friendship with the owners of the company to get me a position in Liverpool. Knowing how much she wanted to give her daughter my job I didn’t think that there would be a problem. She was on me, like a seagull on a warm chip, when I got in to the office. “How did you get on?” she asked. I told her what had happened between Garry and myself and what I thought she could do to smooth the situation out for me. She assured me that she, ‘Would have a word.’ ‘Great,’ I said, as I left her office. ‘I don’t think any of us could live it down if I failed in an interview against a bunch of team leaders.’ I checked for a smile and do you know what, I really do think that I discovered why people are terrified of clowns, as in response to my quip; I got a glimpse of what pure evil looks like.