Why, why, why, Delilah?

So I’m sitting in the waiting room at the little hospital – where my doctor’s happens to be. The lighty-up thingy above the receptionist’s desk isn’t working, for which I am thankful.  Some long-ago receptionist misheard Mrs – or possibly Ms – for Miss when entering my details for the first time, so the lighty-up thing converts me into a Miss, every single time. When it lights up I have to skulk off down the corridor conscious of all those pitying glances at my back.

Poor old soul, never had a man. Sent back unopened, etc.

Since there is no lighty-up thing today I need to keep my eye on the corridor ahead, since the doctor – or in my case nurse-practitioner, whatever that is – will have to come out in person and shout for me. I have an unobstructed view ahead until…

‘Delilah. Isn’t she sweet? Only born a couple of weeks ago.’

Blocking my view, suddenly, are a mother and daughter, possibly the largest and most look-alike mother and daughter combo I have ever seen. My God, they are so fat. They are also both wearing at least half a ton of make-up. How long did it take them to plaster that lot on? At least an hour each. It must be social media. Everyone feels they’ve got to look like a Kardashian before they leave the house.

Delilah is a po-faced moppet in a shawl and pink cap thing. She is overburdened with ‘product’, as I think they now call it. So many pink garments. Earrings. Frills. On the floor is a two-tone beige carrier thing, with handle. Looks like the Rolls Royce of carrier-things. Baby Delilah and those two gigantic mumsy bottoms are inches from my nose. Like Mr Bean I try to crane my neck around them slowly, so slowly that I won’t be perceived as critically craning. My nurse-practitioner is running fourteen minutes late. In any case Delilah, her besotted attendants and expensive equipment-mountain get called in before me.

I am glad I got the nurse. Many sad years of experience have taught me that all medical practitioners are going to end up faintly despising me. I just can’t communicate in those staccato, scientific sentences medical and normal people use. I have to start way back in the story and sort of creep up to it. Then suddenly veer away from it at the last moment, then finish it, in a breathless rush. When they start trying to logicalize and coherentize me it’s fatal. Either I gabble faster still or turn into Eeyore and stare at the wall, not listening.

But women doctors despise me for fewer things. Both men and women medical-types get impatient with me for being odd, incoherent, long-winded, unnaturally anxious, gabbling and therefore probably hypochondriac. But men doctors also despise me for being female – therefore certainly neurotic- and past reproductive age, therefore incipiently senile. Not worth glancing up from the computer.

I try to explain to her the excruciating pain in my hip, which I am convinced, having looked it all up on the internet, is either Arthritis or some deadly form of You Know What.

Well, it’s not You Know What, she says. Otherwise it would go on hurting even when you were lying down, now wouldn’t it?

Maybe Arthritis? I venture. More likely Sciatica, she says. Hmm – Sciatica doesn’t match the internet I think – but of course, do not say. Doesn’t much matter either way, she says. Treatment’s the same. Painkillers. Patience.

I have to hang on to the receptionist’s desk for a few seconds on the way out; since I am once more vertical the waves of agony are washing over me.

I have to pause on one of the chairs in the waiting room until it subsides again. No sign of Delilah and her entourage.

I have to sit down on one of the squashy chairs outside the pharmacy before I can go in and queue for a packet of Ibuprofen. In the pharmacy, while some woman takes her time deciding between this type of sticky plasters or that – I attempt to stand upright rather than cringing forward or quietly screaming. I wonder if I look pale and drawn, like the heroine of a Victorian novel. Suspect I look irritable and yellow.

The car-park was full to bursting when I arrived, in fact cars were blocking in other cars and littering the muddy grass verges all the way up the drive. My little car ended up more or less abandoned at the last minute in a tiny residential street opposite the hospital. I had to limp uphill for a muddy quarter of a mile or so to keep my appointment.

When I come out I collapse at the bus stop for a while, thinking the bus might come along in a minute or two and might give me a lift down to the end of the drive, though it would mean explaining the whole thing in front of a busload of earwigging strangers.

No bus arrives. Eventually I heave myself up and hobble off down the driveway. I have never been quite so pleased to unlock the driver’s side door and tumble in behind the wheel. Then the bus arrives.

Painkillers. Patience.

Ow! (Ow Ow!)

Well, this will be my first one-armed post. So probably quite a short one.

Cat (appropriately, three-legged cat) turned round and bit me as I foolishly tried to stop him biting another cat. I suppose, if thinking at all, I was thinking – a three-legged cat, what harm can he do? Four very sharp teeth punctured my left hand full force, and now of course it has gone All Funny. Hand swollen up like a balloon. Cannot open tins with either hand, since I am strongly left-handed and yes, the left hand is the disabled one. Am having to feed them Felix pouches ordered in big boxes from Amazon and opened painfully with scissors. They love Felix but the pouch version costs the earth. At this rate there will be no presents for anybody next Christmas or the Christmas after that.

So, I cannot drive (just bought a replacement car) and cannot write. This morning got yet another email asking me for my meter readings. Thought a bit, then typed the numbers right-handed into my phone. Rest of the time am reduced to watching TV, ice pack clamped to hand, filth and chaos multiplying all around.

When I went to the hospital yesterday (on the bus, with Bertie, who isn’t very well either) they looked at me reprovingly and asked me why I hadn’t come in yesterday morning, when it happened. Well, I didn’t really realise it was going to almost immediately start looking like some kind of vile swamp and blow up like a balloon. I assumed it would just sort of go away… eventually.

Three things:

a) Apparently 90% of the British population is naturally immune to Tetanus nowadays. They immunise children for it as babies, it seems. They don’t like wasting tetanus shots so they do a little blood test on you first, and I am one of the 10% with no immunity. So, a tetanus shot in either arm and four more still to come.

b) They have put me on these very strong antibiotics which nurse describes, encouragingly, as “the Domestos of all antibiotics”. She tells me it would be best not to read the contra-indications in the leaflet inside the box. Antibiotics usually make me feel queasy, but oddly these haven’t. Neither have they reduced the size of the swollen hand, yet. The pain-killers are making me feel queasy.

c) I am instructed if the redness reaches my elbow or begins to track upwards “like veins” I am to make my way immediately to Accident and Emergency fifteen or twenty miles away. Over Christmas. With no buses, no trains, and unable to drive. Thankfully, so far no tracking.

Ah, tis indeed the season to be Merry!




I treated myself to a book today – an actual new book, from an actual bookshop. Also egg and chips and a pot of tea in an altogether more cheerful café than the Greasy one Mum and I seem to have to go to of a Sunday. I had a rubbish day yesterday and am set to have another rubbish day tomorrow, back at the eye hospital, so felt I deserved both.

The book – an ideal choice for waiting room perusal, I thought – is a translation of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. I dipped into it over the egg and chips and got as far as page x of the Introduction (which in itself is xx pages long) and stumbled over the following sentence:

Roquentin is a solipsist, trapped in a terrible echo-chamber of the self, haunted by the sonics of his inflamed personality.

As I poured myself a second, slightly chilly cup of tea (never waste what’s left in the pot) I wondered if there had ever been a time in my life when I would have understood that sentence, perhaps in my youth when my brain was firing on all cylinders? But I suspect not. It will give me something absorbing to focus on whilst waiting. Presumably there will be waiting, since hospitals seem to involve more waiting than anything else. I am looking forward to it – the Sartre, that is.

Tomorrow my transport is a volunteer gentleman called Roger, whereas yesterday I was driven to and from by a lady taxi-driver whose name I have now forgotten. It’s amazing what you can learn from a taxi driver. I myself rarely leave the inside lane. I would drive for fifty miles at thirty miles per hour sandwiched between two large lorries rather than attempt an overtake. Only in emergencies such as bicycles, sheep or wandering drunks would I briefly enter the central lane and I don’t think I have ever driven in the fast lane. My taxi driver drove more or less the whole 22 miles each way in the fast lane, and our conversation scarcely flagged.

This morning, from memory, I made a list of just a few of the topics we covered in our 44 miles together:

  • Why some prisoners in open prisons ‘escape’ intentionally, so as to get themselves sent back to the secure prisons they prefer (fewer men per toilet being one reason);
  • Whether you would spot the difference between someone who had a prosthetic leg and someone who was just limping a bit;
  • Why we could only see a quarter of a rainbow – something neither of us had seen before – and whether this might mean we were closer to or further from the legendary pot of gold at the end;
  • What it is like to lose a sister, and bring up a child alone;
  • What it is like to have an elderly mother – she having lost her own mother at a young age;
  • Whether and at what point you could swim across the river;
  • The pleasures of a night out at the Bingo when you had had to forego a social life for ten years;
  • Whether they ought to build another bridge;
  • The difficulty of getting signed off onto benefits with depression;
  • Where exactly the rain was, to have caused the rainbow.

And all this at 70 mph.

Seriously, I live a quiet life and often, it seems to me, get no chance a sensible conversation with a human being from one fortnight to the next; yet this week I have had two long chats with a taxi driver, a long chat over coffee with my two friends, a chat over the telephone with the volunteer driver who will be collecting me tomorrow, a chat over the telephone with my Canadian sister and a rather too long chat with a neighbour over a spare-room bed that was delivered in my absence and was now lurking in his living room, getting smoked all over. Like they say about London buses – you wait for ages and then several come along at once.


Well, tomorrow’s the day I have to go to the doctors,and then possibly on the hospital if he/she thinks I have a detached retina. Fingers crossed, I am hoping for something lesser. At the moment my right eye has become home to a colony of frogspawn and tadpoles, illuminated of an evening by random flashes of lightning. It makes blogging that much more interesting, shall we say, as the white screen brings out the frogspawn in all its dotty gelatinousity.

Getting to the nearest hospital on public transport is a nightmare in itself – one bus, two trains and a long, untried walk with a street-map – so if the worst comes to the worst I will drive over to my mother’s and get a taxi from there. And then there’s the coming back, with an eye full of atropine and everything out of focus. But we shall manage, one way or another, because we always do. And, looking on the bright side, who knows what blogging material might wander my way whilst I’m hanging about on the 99th floor of a ‘special measures’ NHS hospital? I shall be sure to take a big notebook, a tin of pencils and a pencil-sharpener.

To be fair, apart from a nightmarish parking situation I have had no bad experiences at that hospital to date. And, looking on the brighter side, I may well not have a detached retina – far more likely to be something that will clear up in a week – a touch of eyefluenza, say.

And now for genuinely good news. If you happened to read my recent(ish) post concerning a very large, very loud dog I was thinking of as Baskerville (it was the post with a lot of Wooooofs in it – my onomatopoeic attempts at capturing the sheer volume of Baskerville’s bark) – well, he’s still next door. But I did happen to bump into my neighbour this morning, and got the whole story over what’s left of the garden fence. Baskerville is in fact a lady, and her name is Ayesha – or something that sounds like Ayesha but is spelt differently – something like Ajska – on her Polish doggy passport. Ayesha was rescued from a man who lives round here, who required payment of the full, humungous pedigree price before he would let her go. I am happy because although it probably means putting up with a helluva lotta wooooofing from now on, Ayesha is safe.

In fact as my neighbour was speaking I realised something. This is the dog I would hear howling and crying whenever I went for a walk or to post letters. Being a cat lady I’m not exactly an expert on barks, but something in that distressed doggy voice always hurt and worried me. I just didn’t know what to do about it. I wasn’t even sure where the dog was, as everything echoes and gets distorted round here. But that was Ayesha, and Ayesha now lives next door.

One more lost soul finds sanctuary.


Safe (1)

It is a heavy door, with wired glass through which I spy on you. I don’t recognise the pyjama-jacket you are wearing. Your leg, broken in seven places, has been pierced through the ankle with a metal bolt and the leg hauled up in a cat’s cradle of weights and wires. The parts of you that aren’t broken have been tidied away under knife-edge sheets, and a grey blanket with two red stripes.

We find a stack of plastic chairs in a corner and arrange ourselves around your bedside. I try not to look at your ankle, but again and again my eyes are drawn to the entrance and exit points of that bolt. The holes are ragged, larger than what goes through them. The brown is blood, the yellow iodine. It’s meaty and messy; not like crucifixion paintings. I think of Leonardo, and how much he would have enjoyed sketching this scene, especially the pulleys.

It’s a men-only ward. The man in the bed next to yours was a lorry-driver, then he crashed his lorry on the M60. He seems to have told you his life story. Did you tell him yours?

You are smiling; jovial, even. I guess this place reminds you of National Service and those nissen huts in Lincolnshire in 1940-something; the wind inserting itself into every crack; the cheap beds with their singing springs; the coal stove that was never adequate to warm you all. They woke you at five in the morning to shout ‘Stand by your beds!’ and ever since you have woken at 5 a.m. You were safe, in those days.

What else do I have in this old tin box of memories? Ah yes, another window, the one behind your head. We are sitting there trying to invent more things to say, or rather my mother is. I’m just sitting, watching that square of sky as it turns from violet to indigo to navy and stars emerge in it. There is a half-finished bottle of Lucozade on the cabinet beside your bed. And flowers. Purple. I don’t know what they are but they don’t look at all happy. There’s water in a jug with a pop-up lid next to a smeary glass. You are tethered, temporarily.

The door trundles closed behind us. It has one of those pneumatic closing mechanisms. I make a final check on you through the wire mesh. The smile has dropped off your face. You are biting your fingernails. I catch you, being lonely.