Tag Archives: hospital

Still Catching Up

When I was in hospital (sorry to be still going on about this but a) I don’t get out much, as I may have mentioned before, so I have to make my experiences go a long way and b) I haven’t been feeling that great since getting out of hospital, at least not full enough of spit and bobbance to attend to my blog) – WHEN I was in hospital I noticed something I’ve never noticed before about the speed regulations in the corridors.

Speed regulations? Yes indeed. Nurses, for example, go around at a comfortable amble, it could almost be their prescribed gait (I don’t know about A & E, I did once stray into the A & E department, and one look at the smashed glass-panes on the doors and the general toilet-odour hanging about the waiting area told me this was a Different Hospital, though everyone talks about long waits in A & E so perhaps the Comfortable Amble rule does still apply there). Starting from that C/A (comfortable amble) norm, you notice that the Auxiliaries go even slower – a Casual Roll, I’d call that; and it seems there’s an even lower stratum of auxiliary, the Cleaners-up of Things, I can’t remember the various colours of uniforms, which it looks have been designed not to be hugely different from each other (a sort of Democratic semi-similitude is observed), but I think the two strata of auxiliaries have more or less the same uniform, except that the lower one has a slightly paler (green, is it? – I had a bad eye, remember); anyway, the lowest stratum adopts a positively Mediaeval Shuffle as they go about their essential, but undesirable, business.

Then you get to the other end of the spectrum. Doctors you can identify from administrators, not only by their lack of uniform (I don’t mean they’re in the scud, stupid), by the fact that the Smart Upright gait of the administrators (generally accompanied in the case of the female members of the band by a smart click-clack as of tap-dancing shoes) is represented in the doctors’ case by a slight Forward Inclination, which certainly suggests a higher speed and in some cases this is actually the case. I had always assumed this was because the doctors were always so Incredibly Busy, but now I suspect it’s actually to do simply with the Convention on Corridor Velocity: the doctors soon notice the sharp and critical eye of the nurses on them if they’re not seen to be observing this convention. Then there are the Docs in scrubs: they are the Porsches and Alfa Romeos of the hospital corridor. What they’re doing out of Theatre in that get-up I don’t know, but you want to watch them go!

It occurs to me there may be a direct correlation between health workers’ hourly rate and their corridor velocity, but I didn’t like to stop anyone and ask. It just remains a Theory.

Well, what’s been wrong with me these last four weeks, such that I haven’t even felt up to feeding a few paltry poems into the Poetry page? This is a bit of a mystery. Many of my friends, who share my deep distrust of antibiotics and steroids, say my ailment must be due to the prolonged course of antibiotics and steroids, administered by eye, which I’ve been undergoing. The doctors say nonsense to this, it’s but Coincidence, though one might feel inclined to apply that famous Mandy Rice-Davies quote to that particular assertion. I’m working on the theory of an arcane Link in the body, a golden thread that runs down from the pituitary gland to the right eye, then the right shoulder, the liver, from where it crosses to the left testicle, the left knee and the left Little Toe. Mong up any of these points and the rest get monged in sympathy. Well, some of them, there’s nothing wrong with my pituitary gland or my left testicle, I assure you, but the shoulder, the left knee and particularly the Little Toe are not oo great. But the trouble definitely centres on that right eye/ liver bit.

Anyway, when I finally come off the steroids I might make a further report, unless people urge me not to.

What are steroids? everyone wonders. Well, they’re good ‘uns, in the short term, everyone seems to agree. Originally found being manufactured in the body (particularly in the testicles, unless I’m much mistaken, I’m not sure about Ladies though), I dare say the Body’s now been taken out of the loop and replaced by the laboratory. I hope so, I’m not quite sure how I’d feel about opening my eye to receive a drop from someone’s – well, you know what I mean. One can’t help being a little squeamish…. Particularly when the third theory about my Ailment is that I simply picked up Something Nasty in hospital. Maybe the Mediaeval Shufflers should be promoted to Alfa Romeo status – I hope with pay-rates compatible with that change – or maybe all surgeries and treatments should be performed out in the car-parks in the sweet sea-air of Aberdeen….. As for the food…. No, but I’m sure everything you get must have been sterilised and double-sterilised so no particular fears from that quarter. Or the eating of raw ferments should be made obligatory throughout the hospital, particularly by nurses. I’m sure it would enhance their Comfortable Amble if they were picking at their jar of ferment with a little ivory fork as they went.

I’ve got another Hospital Observation still to make, but I’ll leave that till next time.

I meant to write about Skye, well, ages ago, since it happened ages ago, but in truth I can’t think what to say about that. We went there to scatter the ashes of our dear friend Ken Grant on the Quirang, which is a mountain that looks as though it was specially constructed for that very purpose (here’s a link to Sandy Weir’s pics if you don’t believe me). What more is to be said. Ken had endured a lot more Hospital than any of the rest of us have, and with a good deal less complaint, certainly, than would have been the case with me. I’m putting a poem in the next lot being inserted as the “Fourth Ten“, this was read as one of the various spoken tributes made that day.

From the Scattering we drove back to Portree in cortege via the extraordinary Fairy Glen, which was a favourite of Ken’s, and were accompanied for much of these proceedings by three little Chinese girls who had popped up the evening before, courteously invited to join us by Wattie, immediately challenged by Charlie R about Tiananmen Square, which they took in good part. They pranced about on the precipitous slope of the Quirang, much to Bill’s dismay, who was convinced it would lead to an International Incident if one of them took a tumble. They claimed to be Art & Media students from London, but it was a thin disguise, as they were obviously emanations from the Faerie realm. I believe Wattie was supposed to have been taking them on the next leg of their journey the next day, but I don’t know that they turned up for the rendezvous, and I believe had vanished back Whence they came.

After the main proceedings we got drunk in various establishments in Portree – obligatory for all apart from those who had to drive home that night. The sight of Charlie R attempting to eat his lunch in the Indian restaurant in Inverness the next day was indeed a memorable one, supporting himself with one hand on his knee, which kept slipping off, bringing his face down perilously close to his Madras on several occasions.

There’s also another poem for Ken which I wrote for his sixtieth birthday the previous year. I don’t know what he made of it, though he presumably realised it was referring to his own literary attempts. I don’t actually know, re-reading it, what I make of it: but maybe that was the point of it. These two are followed by some other occasion-poems, including a very bossy, and rather grim, epithalamion from 1993, when another protege of Ken’s from the Studio Keith days, Stewart Thomson, got married somewhere down on the Welsh Marches (great occasions, weddings, people have to listen whether they want to or not, but at least they have a drink to hand); also some odd bits and pieces I found in the same folder, which must be from around the same time. One of them is a tribute to my favourite old-style composer, Jean Sibelius, which I have no memory of writing. But I do remember that one of the other poems, “Another Evening” follows a bad habit I have of writing poems “to” pieces of music I like (bad because the result never seems to quite fit the music, the repetitiousness of music being a hard thing to render in words without it seeming like a waste of words) – in this case one of his symphonic themes. Another, the Don Evely one, was recognisably written in the time of the last Tory government (no, there’s no money, there’s just no money in the kitty, you’ll all have to tighten your belts….): and that gives one a comforting sense of continuity in these troubled times.

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In for Repair

People are wonderful. Individually they’re wonderful, and when they link up together they can achieve just about anything they want. This is well known. So why is it, I wonder, that we have so many Problems? Presumably it’s because a large proportion of people dedicate their wonderfulness to creating Problems.

There’s probably a ratio: at any given moment there’s, say, 45% of humanity (let’s say adult, non-senile, humanity) which is engaged in causing Problems; and a slightly bigger perrcentage, say 52, engaged in a rearguard action to help prevent the Problems from completely overwhelming us. And the other 3%? Well, they’re at Coldhome. Not Coldhome-Coldhome, of course, but in situations somehow similar or parallel, situations where people are off somewhere trying to find big or general solutions by doing something very small, people who either feel they’ve fallen off the edge of the world or that they’re living in a bubble and just hope they might be allowed to bring something useful to completion before the bubble bursts.

It’d be too convenient, of course, to assume that the 45% and the 52% are arranged neatly into Problem-creators and humanity’s Rearguard. At any given time you may have this distribution, certainly, but whenever you look again you see that, although the distribution remains the same, the faces have changed. In other words, everyone contains the distribution within themselves – oh well, throw in the 3% as well: even the biggest Problem-creator probably has a corner of a garden shed that is forever Coldhome.

Why am I engaged in these reflections? Well, I’m sitting here in hospital, aren’t I: a bit homesick, and with nothing better to do. And yes, I’m already slightly embarrassedly aware that a large proportion of these blogs have been written from some place or other that we’ve been gadding off to (and the list continues since last time with two more trips to Skye to confess to). Anyway, the hospital trip is at least Coldhome-based, and results from my determination to try and win a place for rye as the Northern Scottish Bread Grain Crop, which means me sowing out a slightly larger patch of the stuff every year, and selecting seed from whatever plants seem most enthusiastic about living at Coldhome. Alas, attending to the plump seedhead-end of Jack Rye I momentarily forgot that he also has a rather vicious tail-end, and into my eye it went. So, instead of being sensible and bleating off to Casualty I spent the next day on the bus travelling to visit my old Ma, who I‘d already let down the previous week due to the prior engagement on Skye…. You see how it all works in together…. So by this time the scratch on the cornea has turned into an ulcer, and Annie rushing me off to Casualty goes straight into the Sky T V van on the way to an honest Job in Buckie just as she’s exiting the top of the track, so there’s me with my right eye “down” (though modestly concealed behind dark glasses), and the Astra with its right headlight in splinters – that’s behind a hasty gorilla-tape job…

It’s all right, I’m not going to make a poem about it – not even a song and dance. I’m stoical, me. Though nothing better to do means just that: can’t read, can’t watch the telly, the juice has run out on my netbook and I don’t have the charger, I’m writing this longhand in my little black book but I can’t actually see a word I’m writing.

The dude holding Jack Rye’s offensive tail has not just walked, as Charlie R opines, straight out of the ’eighties. My blue top with pink triangular slashes at the shoulders – that was the ’eighties. These boys are ( I believe) actually Anna’s, and as Anna knows about Fashion, I can safely say they’re Retro, which I think means hot up-to-the-minute

Anyway, hospitals, yes. Extraordinary places. The Health Service: extraordinary institution. All those brilliant and compassionate people, yet the whole thing underpinned – payrolled, even – by a vast Industry dedicated to making a fortune out of people’s propensity for sickness and accident. And that underlying motive, I fear, is bound to contaminate even the best of them, somewhere or other.

So much effort and energy has been put into creating these enormous centralised hospitals and closing down their small provincial counterparts – and maybe there‘s sense in that, as long as you can rely on fast and easy access to them. But then, maybe we forget the extent that architecture defines us on a day-to-day basis. For example, the best place, all things considered, to meet a Specialist or a Consultant would be in a small shed. Then everyone can concentrate on the job in hand – like when you go and dump your lawnmower with a lawnmower mechanic, and he‘s got a grubby little workshop that simply inspires your confidence in the guy. But instead of something like that, we bring to bear our Problem-creating talent and shove him in the middle of one of these vast shiny hospital edifices, where by and by he turns into God.
Again, nurses. Naturally compassionate people, but bound by certain codes of behaviour, for the best of reasons, and there’s not many people nowadays who would argue against Professionalism. Yet inhibiting a person’s natural compassion by training them to adhere to a code could be creating just another Problem, albeit too subtle a one for a Health Service’s consideration. Chew on it, oh Rearguard.

Finally, much of modern endeavour represents a titanic effort to exercise Control. Hospitals are no exception, the control in their case being over bugs, bodies, and bodies‘ irritating habit of sitting down and saying they‘ve Had Enough. The hospital attempts to be a gigantic bubble of frantically-maintained Hygiene – and boy, it’s full-scale war, with all those dreadful bugs out there. Hence a farm-boy in the wards is bad enough, but a farm-boy idiotic enough to stick a corn-stalk in his eye (have you any idea what kind of bugs thrive out there in the farmyard?) – well, he gets everything he deserves, and it‘s just plain common sense that he picked up his ulcer on the farm and not during the seven hours on the bus to and from visiting his old Ma. Not that he hasn’t been treated very sweetly.

But now this same farm-boy has been rash enough to open a jar of one of Rachel‘s special immune-system-boosting ferments at teatime, and that ferment has spawned a secondary ferment of outraged nurses sniffing the air in the corridor outside his door. Perhaps I should go and try to comfort them. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my little sojourn doing nothing apart from eating as much super-bland food as they would let me have. But therein – I mean there, in the super-bland food – there lurks another Problem and, naturally, another vast Industry…..

Thanks for all the well-wishing, by the way. Bulletin: the Eye’s to go on a reduced diet of drops, a mere six times a day now, and I‘m to get home.


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