Hospit-ality

Hospitals are not my natural milieu, you might say

(she types, wincingly, with injured paw).

I mean, I just don’t go with the décor. Sitting in the Friends of the Hospital shop toying with a Styrofoam cup of unlikely-coloured tea with rapidly submerging tea-bag

(the dangly bit fell in)

is not my idea of Christmas Eve. I have bought a TV listings magazine to pass the time until I make my way to the clinic for my appointment

(if you don’t arrive before ten a.m. there are no parking spaces till tomorrow before ten a.m.)

but it contains nothing but staged photos of soap-opera actors pretending to be anguished, because it’s Christmas, and everyone knows Christmas is the perfect time to murder your missus and bury her beheath the patio.

(I hate soaps.)

At least it’s different. I mean, what else would I have been doing over Christmas? Compared to sitting in the conservatory with my mother for three silent hours listening to the clock ticking, and maybe knitting a row or two, driving 23.3 miles to the nearest A&E hospital

(and the same back)

four days in a row

(yes four, including Christmas Day)

to have my bitten hand prodded and redressed and antibiotics injected into some miniature piece of yellow or blue plastic bandaged into to my arm for the duration, this is actually quite exciting. This hospital is almost beginning to feel like a Home From Home. Like Home, without the cat litter and the non-functioning lightbulbs

(they are packing up in some mysterious sequence – it may be a code)

and Bertie ringing me up at 1.30 in the morning saying he thinks he’s dying but he’s not sure what of and it could be his waterworks but it might be his throat… or his psoriasis… and now I’ve got a car would I mind driving him to the hospital because an ambulance will never arrive in time… but that’s another story.

I may not tell it. Maybe it would be unkind? It probably would be unkind. But I may still tell it, because in spite of the nurse telling me I was a kind person, really I’m a bit of a moo.

I might tell it…

Suffice it for now to say that Nurse has instructed me to instruct Bertie next time he telephones in the middle of the night that the Nurse has ordered me to conserve my strength at the moment or my hand won’t get better. She says the technique is to be apologetic, kindly, sympathetic but not of any actual practical use over and over again. Eventually, she says, the person gets the message.

(I do not think Bertie is of a constitution to get any message, ever, but maybe her advice would be worth a try. It was kind of her to offer it, whilst slowly squeezing cold stuff into my arm from an enormous syringe.)

You will be please to hear

(I hope you are not reading this over your Christmas Dinner)

that although my cat-savaged hand still looks like the surface of some distant red planet, with scattered, erupting volcanoes, and feels as sore as the surface of such a planet must feel after aeons of being erupted under and onto by volcanoes, the hand itself has now returned to normal size. It originally swelled up and looked like the puffer fish featured above, without the mouth and the funny little fins. And at that point, of course, I could not drive although the taxi driver

(I have met quite a few taxi drivers in the past few days)

did explain to me that I could probably change gear for 23.3 miles by pushing the gear stick with the puffer-fish-type hand. He has obviously had to drive this way in the past so as to maintain his livelihood. A truly scary thought.

There’s a few good things about stuff like this. You get to chat to people you would never have chanced to meet, in your life. This morning, for example, I spent a couple of minutes with a middle-European lady who was allergic to painkillers, who was suffering from the most agonising bad back I have ever witnessed someone trying to walk along with. I think she must have slipped a disc. Even sitting still, talking to me, she was pausing to scream at intervals. I wished – I jut wished, at that point – that I possessed those healing hands, the sort you can just lay on or hover above people, to take away their pain. But hopefully they will find at least one painkiller she is not allergic to.

You may find out things about yourself you would never otherwise have known. I discovered via the blood tests that though  I may not have sepsis (may not, presumably I’d feel a bit iller if I had) I do have anaemia. So now I have iron tablets. How exciting! This may be the beginning of the inevitable metamorphosis into one of those old ladies with a medicine cupboard bursting with cardboard boxes of tablets for this and tablets for that…

And you get to master new skills, if only tiny ones. I am a coward, you see. I tend to avoid doing stuff that’s stressful, and for me, anything I haven’t done before, anything new, tends to get avoided. New cars contain many such skills, and I have been avoiding learning them all. In case I couldn’t. In case it was stressful.

But last night, thanks to Bertie and his hyponchondria/panic attack demand to be whisked to the Community Hospital (only about 6 miles away) I was forced to work out where the button was to switch on the headlights

(yay!)

and this morning, in anticipation of having to retrieve a car-park ticket from one of those scary yellow machines via the car window so that the barrier would lift, I had to devote some time to deducing how to open windows in a car so very modern it has no handle to wind. At all. And then I managed the drive to the hospital, round one of the worst-designed many-laned roundabouts of all time

(get in your lane well in advance and don’t whatever you do move out of it till you get to the other side: taxi driver)

and bought petrol, even though the petrol place is on completely the wrong side of the car and there is no cap just some sort of hole

and found my way on Christmas Eve through dense traffic in an unfamiliar town, and actually found a parking space, and then actually managed to reverse the entire sequence

(apart from buying petrol, which would have been silly)

on the way back.

God bless us, every one!

It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve done all the meaningful, useful things I can think of to do – like packing most of my 2,000 books into cardboard boxes ready for the decorator who’s coming to paint the living room next week, and taking delivery of two more sacks of cat litter – What have you got in here, coal? asked the courier.  I’ve watched Ice Road Truckers – one of the old ones I’d missed – plus yet another Extraordinary Weather Events , 2015 programme (foam blowing in from the sea in Devon … a three-day plague of locusts in Mongolia … hailstones the size of frozen turkeys in Texas …) plus yet another montage of People You Had Already Forgotten About Or Never Heard Of In The First Place, Who Died In 2015. I’ve done a little heap of ironing, sighed a bit, moped about a bit and wished I didn’t have to go and see my mother tomorrow a bit. A lot.

I don’t want to be there with her on my own, chilly and subtly unwelcome – no teensy-tiny sherry, no sticky mince-pie, no tree, not a shred of tinsel. I don’t want to be perched on a green metal garden chair, just like on a Sunday – like every Sunday from here to – whatever the backwards of Eternity is – writing capital-letters notes for her to throw straight onto the floor without reading, or read aloud so badly all the sense has gone from the words.

I can’t be doing with yet another incomprehensible tantrum or yet another update on hauntings by gypsies, voices coming through the walls and plots to divert her drains several feet to the left. I don’t honestly feel like racking my brains for something sensible, sociable and different to say to the lunchtime carer when she arrives – when everyone else in the whole of the United Kingdom (apart from me and tomorrow’s unfortunate carer) is at home enjoying a Family Christmas with turkey, sprouts, stuffing and giant tins of lager, sniping at the cousins or the in-laws and playing Scrabble or Donkey Kong, whatever that might be. Or doing carol-karaoke with the TV set.

What an awful thing for a daughter to say. But she won’t remember it’s Christmas.  I’ll have to make us tea in those tea-stained mugs, and microwave us something if the carers haven’t beaten me to it. She’ll be miserable, and by the time I do leave I’ll be miserable too. It makes me sad to be spending Christmas morning examining dead leaves on an overgrown lawn, wondering why it always has to be wet or sunny for Christmas, never snowy. The same dead leaves, brown hydrangea flowers, black skeleton trees. Listening to the kitchen clock ticking louder, louder, louder in the uncommunicative mega-silence deafness and dementia impose.

I want to be on my own. She wants to be on her own. I’m wondering what the cats are wrecking in my absence. She’s plotting to take her shopping trolley for a long, illegal walk. She’s just waiting for me to go. My name has probably escaped her. So why am I there, then? Presumably because everybody else has got an excuse. And after all, it’s Christmas. Ho, ho, ho!

What else have I been up to today? Well, I’ve been surfing the net, as the young folks call it nowadays. I was a bit stuck for an idea for a post. I mean, I know what I planned to do: I was going to finally start work on Midwinter (see Midwinter Unwritten). I even typed up a summary last night.  but did I write it? No I did not. I got an idea for another post – anything to put off Midwinter – and surfed about looking for background information on that.

And then I fed the fourteen cats.

And then it got dark outside and still I hadn’t seen a single neighbour – though one did push a card through my door and make a run for it.

And then I ate a raspberry yoghurt and a bowl of cinnamon breakfast cereal.

And then I realised I’d run out of space yet again, chugging on about other stuff. I will be writing the substitute post. Maybe this evening after the washing up – one plate, one knife, one fork, one mug and fourteen melamine dishes, each with a different Disney character in the base. Or maybe tomorrow,  après Mama, except that going to see her seems to leach all the writing-ness out of me. And Midwinter. Probably.

Merry Christmas Everybody. Or Season’s Greetings or whatever you’re supposed to say to be politically correct nowadays. Or, as Tiny Tim said, waving his crooked little stick in the air:

God bless us, every one!