Lock-down Diaries #7

Good day to all my lovely readers and welcome to Lock-down Diary #7 which is going to begin with a rant, you may or may not be glad to know.

I was feeling productive on the back of eventually posting Diary #6 a few days ago and cracked on with #7. I worked for almost four hours non-stop and was making good progress with the story I wanted to tell you but of course it was never going to be that simple.

The culprit this time was that damned Windows and there is indeed a special inner circle of Hell reserved specifically for all involved with that evil outfit. Once again it forced me to have an upgrade I neither needed nor wanted. When I had done the Almighty Windows bidding the only difference I could see was that they were trying to extract more personal information from me and / or sell me some premium service that, like their upgrade, I neither needed nor wanted. I loathe them.

What had they done in return for my abject submission to their will? Lost my four hours of hard work. Completely vanished. Great job, no doubt it is a penalty they imposed on me for not doing their bidding completely and for having a mind of my own.

Rant over but it explains in part why an entry I promised some of you in private correspondence was going to happen last Monday (BST) is unlikely to happen before Saturday evening.

Once I get it done all over again, you can have a look as always by pressing the “read more” button.

Thanks so much for pressing “read more”, you really are an inquisitive bunch, aren’t you? Welcome back to all my old faithfuls and welcome to the one or two new followers I seem to have gathered up along the way. I have a total of 71 now and I never in my wildest imaginings believed I would amass such a readership when I started this slightly lunatic project. I even got a notice from WordPress a few days ago (they are the site I construct my webpages on before publishing them) saying I had experienced a “spike” in views, I had had a grand total of 27 which shows you how much traffic I normally get but it was pleasing anyway. On Friday 10/07 I got to 81, my best total ever. I shall try not to let it go to my head!

First things first, a huge thank you to everyone that took the time to send me some lovely messages of support, I honestly don’t have the words to thank you adequately which is unusual for a mouthpiece like me but it is true. They were all genuinely appreciated.

Before we start, I feel it only right to let you know that this is another bit of a medical epic and will have the odd image that some may find disturbing. As always, it is not at all my intention to shock or offend anyone. If these things are not for you, please skip out to another page, preferably one of mine. I’m on a roll now, I might even get 100 views one of these days!  I promise I’ll post my PG warning long before anything gruesome.

I had left you with me back on the sofa in my flat nursing a leg that was heavily bandaged and likely to start bleeding with any sort of use at all, a bag of medication big enough to stock a pharmacy and a list of instructions in my head as to what I had to do.
I was to keep my left leg as immobile as possible and elevated at all times. No problem. I was to have my dressings changed by the practice nurse at my local surgery. Check. I was to keep myself well hydrated. I can do that. The entire regime seemed fairly simple. I had been thinking about everything I had been told to do and I reckoned I had everything covered.

I said in the last Diary that I wasn’t scared at any point during the whole drama and that was not mere braggadocio, it is the truth. Maybe I was just too stupid to appreciate the danger or there was some other reason but whilst it hadn’t frightened the life out of me as such, I was eager not to repeat the performance. I had determined myself to be a model patient. I was and it came back to bite me right on the posterior, or more accurately on the left leg!

Keeping the leg immobile was not a problem as I normally sit in my computer chair doing whatever it is I do on this thing and with my feet up on the adjacent sofabed as it is a comfortable position so that was sorted. I generally sleep on the sofabed anyway and it has an arm at the end so I could elevate even when I was sleeping. Kushti (bet you didn’t think I could speak Roma!).

What about immobility. Well, I had a decent amount of food in the flat. OK, I was running out of bread but I could work round that. It was Monday evening now and I thought I wouldn’t have to go to the shop until Friday when I planned to go to get the dressings changed. Two birds with one stone and all that. The reason I was going to get the dressing changed on the Friday is that the surgery is closed at the weekends and I knew I couldn’t go the whole weekend without a change so I thought I’d leave it to the last possible minute.

What about cooking then? Living alone I was going to have to paddle my own canoe on that one but again no problem. Obviously, in the days before I got my ulcer sorted out I would just have stopped eating for a week or two but that is no longer an option. Food was going to have to be made and the challenge was going to be standing for the minimum possible time. I live in a tiny flat (apartment) and don’t have the luxury of or the space for a high stool I could sit on whilst preparing food.

I make no secret of the fact that I love cooking, cooking programmes, recipe books and just about anything to do with the subject. It is just the eating part of the process I wasn’t much good at. I love hearing top chefs talking about how their Granny taught them to bake Victoria sponge at age seven or Uncle Tommy taught them how to catch, gut, fillet and cook fish before their voices had broken. My “culinary heritage” is pure “single bloke cooking”.

I never really learnt to cook at home. Certainly I’d sit in the kitchen and watch my Mother or Grandmother at it but in 1960’s and 70’s Northern Ireland, men just didn’t cook. About the only men who did any cooking were those who ran fish and chip shops. I didn’t learn the first thing about cooking until I moved into a flat with my mate Kevin O’Brien in 1979. It was the attic floor of 50 Osborne Park in Belfast which was home to two elderly spinsters. It was my first place and I loved it. I have just looked it up on a mapping system and, apart from a new dormer window in what was our living room, it does not appear to have changed appreciably in 41 years.

Kev was an incredible bloke. He had run away from school, lied about his age and joined the merchant navy. He’d been round the world by the time he was about 16 or 17. He came out of that and spent some years as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery and somewhere along the line he had learned how to cook and cook well. He was kind enough to teach me as we were great mates.

We used to go out “on the pull” together, usually in the Balmoral Inn on the Lisburn Road and we had a secret weapon, the dinner party! Nowadays that is so commonplace as to be clichéd but in 1970’s Belfast the concept of two young single blokes inviting a couple of girls round for a meal was utterly unheard of. When I look back on it now it is laughable as all we ever did was a roast dinner, usually chicken with all the bits and bobs and we’d get a couple of bottles of wine in. If we were really going for it we might even manage a prawn cocktail (very Seventies) for starters and some Angel Delight and tinned fruit for dessert. I suspect that Marie Rose was the first sauce I ever learned to make and I still love it now.  Ask me for my secret ingredients if you’re interested,

We got ourselves a bit of a reputation as a right pair of Romeos and of being very sophisticated which was complete nonsense as we were both barely educated hooligans but we did all right with the girls!

With the basics under my belt and when I moved on I was equipped for “single bloke cooking” for which read “anything on toast” and I mean anything. Believe it or not, last night’s leftover curry on a thick doorstep of toast is remarkably tasty. Don’t bother with butter as the semi congealed ghee will do the job for you.

 

I know from experience that I can knock up scrambled egg on toast from scratch and with a cup of coffee in less than 15 minutes, beans on toast quicker and my special sardines on toast recipe quickest of all. I can have it made in the time it takes to boil the kettle. There are plenty more quick options so I wasn’t worried about standing like a stork on my right leg for ever and a day. Cooking sorted and I have included a couple of images from about a month previous to these events as examples.

Keeping hydrated was easy enough and the nurse who discharged me had been kind enough to write a regime for taking my meds on my discharge papers so that was taken care of. I was happy I could make it work and I really tried hard. I do not wish to be indelicate but I hadn’t thought to bring a “bottle” from the hospital so I employed a big coffee jar for a purpose I suspect Gold Blend never intended. With all the hydration I was probably saving myself ten unnecessary trips per day, every little helps.

Monday evening went fine, as did Tuesday and Wednesday. I even got to sleep at a relatively sane hour on Wednesday night / Thursday morning, 0300 or 0400 maybe, which is good for me. I had had a bit of leakage of plasma or whatever down the back of my leg but nothing serious and no blood. The bandage was very slightly soiled but looked like it would hold out until Friday easily enough. I had no pain and didn’t even have any painkillers in my crazy medicinal cocktail. I was happy with the situation but of course it couldn’t last.

I woke on the morning of Thursday, 2nd July and I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t even have to look, it just felt badly wrong. When I did look, the leg was up like a balloon and you could have fried an egg on my shinbone. There was easily enough surface area and it felt like there was enough heat. OK, Fergy old son, straight back to the London and no messing. I knew just by looking that I would not be home that night or probably for a few to come and so I packed the “hospital bag” again.

I have a bit of a habit of having an “honest debrief” with myself after any of my trips or excursions of note, it is just an old Forces thing. I had concluded after my previous adventure in the Royal London that I had packed pretty well even under the extreme circumstances I had done it.

The long sleeved jumper was essential as I get really cold at night in hospital. The computer and books were absolutely vital as the boredom of having nothing to do all day every day would literally have made me suicidal. I had a little pair of earbuds for the computer so I wouldn’t disturb people whilst watching BBC iPlayer in the middle of the night. I had debated the big wireless cans but they need recharging and they would have taken up too much room in an already stuffed daysac. I had added my own flannel as the large “wipes” they give you to wash yourself in hospital are totally useless.

The one thing I had decided on packing, should there be a similar situation in future was a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce and possibly one of tabasco or similar. This was just to liven up the often pretty bland hospital food as the provision of condiments and even salt and pepper is a complete lottery. Having only decided on this a couple of days previously I then promptly forgot to pack them.

I should emphasise that whilst I had planned for such a contingency, I really had not been expecting it to happen until that morning. Everything had been going so well and I had no reason to believe I would be going back and certainly not so soon.

I still could not shower due to the dressings and so I had a strip wash, got dressed, hefted my bag and headed out. You may be wondering why I was walking with my leg in that condition and I’ll tell you. I had self-diagnosed another blood clot and I was to be proved correct, I merely erred in the location and number, I had two, but not bad for an amateur. I had also been told by my consultant vascular surgeon how extremely time critical these things were and I knew how I had been messed about by the ambulance service before. I hasten to add that the ambulance crew themselves had been superb, a model of professionalism and compassion and it was just their so-called “support” staff that had proved to be woefully and dangerously incompetent. In the event that you have just landed on this page randomly somehow, the previous entry here, Diary #6, explains everything. I was going to walk.

I knew it was going to hurt and I knew my leg was going to bleed badly as I did it (correct on both counts) but I knew that even at a much reduced pace I was still going to get to the door of A&E quicker than by ambulance. A walk that would normally have taken about ten minutes (including crossing two very busy main roads) took about half an hour and I had to stop to rest three times I was in so much pain. I could feel the blood / plasma running down into the back of my sock and it was even starting to show on the leg of my jeans which are quite baggy.

I almost made it to the door but had to stop and support myself on a traffic bollard literally 20 yards shy of the A&E door. There were crush barriers at the door and a very large security man trying so hard to look like a policeman, as they do, it was pathetic. Stab / ballistic vest, bloused combat trousers, high leg boots, radio dangling, the whole thing. The place was pretty quiet and I had seen him watching me. I went up to the barrier to see how to get in, thinking he would ask me was I here for a coronavirus test or whatever and tell me to go home. If it was not CoVid related I expected him to pull the barrier aside to let me in when I told him I wasn’t.

He should have known what was wrong with me as I was completely dragging my left leg by now, I was taking all my weight on the right and hobbling along as best I could. As I approached he grunted at me, “Go round”. I must have looked quizzical because he jerked a finger towards the line of fairly substantial barriers of the type you use to stop people driving car-bombs into buildings. “Go round”. I am not exaggerating when I say this obstruction was about 25 – 30 yards long. I could not believe it and, if I had had any sense I should have just collapsed there and then but I suppose all he would have done was call his control room to send for an ambulance because it is not in his remit to assist ill people in a hospital. “Go round”. Conversation was probably not his strong point or perhaps it was that English did not seem to be his first language, who knows?

It was not that I was doing it for effect but it must have taken me five minutes to negotiate this completely unnecessary diversion and nor was the look of agony that I am certain I wore an affectation. He had gone into full security man mode, arms folded across his flak jacket so I could have good look at his biceps (and with his fists behind them to accentuate the size, I know the trick), watching me totally impassively as I struggled. “There” he grunted, pointing towards a circular sticker stuck on the floor of the foyer in such a position that you could not touch anything for support. No chairs. Nice touch in a place where ill and injured people are entering constantly.

I have always found the A&E at the London to be maniacally busy at any hour of the day or night and over the years I have known quite a few people who have worked there and they all confirm this, it is one of the busiest such departments in the country but thankfully there were only two people ahead of me who were seen pretty quickly and I got to the desk which I took all of my weight upon. I told the receptionist my situation and showed her my hospital wristband which I had not removed. People who know me know that I have a practice of never removing a wristband, bracelet or whatever you like to call them from my wrist, I wait for them to fall off. Stupid superstition I know and I don’t count myself as a particularly superstitious man but there you have it.  I have bracelets going back years that have never been off.

The sight of the band and the revelation that I had been so recently discharged seemed to galvanise the entire place. I suppose the staff saw the dreaded words “medical negligence” marching over their horizon. I was processed in double quick time and told to take a seat which I did. I collapsed into one, still breathing a bit hard and after a moment of catching my breath I opened my bag to get out one of my books and settle in for a long wait. Not a chance. I hadn’t even liberated my chosen volume from the daysac when I heard my name called and looked up to see an obviously Asian male nurse, even with the face mask, with a “manbun” and dressed in surgical scrubs who summoned me to his little triage area.

A few questions , quite a few, were asked as he did the first of hundreds of sets of obs. which consist of blood pressure (BP), temperature, blood sats (saturation i.e. the level of oxygen in your bloodstream) and pulse rate.

The first of what will undoubtedly prove to be numerous digressions here. I smoked very heavily for most of my adult life, indeed I started before adulthood. Yes, it is bloody stupid and no, I am not particularly proud of it and yet, against all the odds my lungs still appear to function perfectly well which I really don’t understand.

Anything between 95% and 100% is a good score for the blood sats with anything below 95% indicating a possible lung problem. In all the sets of obs I have had over many weeks in two different hospitals in the last ten months I cannot remember ever dropping below 98% and I regularly hit 100%, it really is a mystery to me. Even though I was still blowing a bit I scored 99%. Added to that, when I had my full body scan my lungs seem to be fairly normal with only slight discolouration. I really do not understand how but I’m not complaining.

My triage nurse had introduced himself but I hadn’t quite caught his name. I suffer from high frequency hearing loss in both ears, something I have known about for years, and I tend to lipread a bit when people talk to me although I am not formally trained in it. Obviously this masking up in response to the Chinese virus aka CoVid-19 removes that option, so I had a quick peek at his name badge and it was all I could do to keep a straight face. His name, as shown on his official NHS nametag, was J2 Lou, I kid you not. Even with my fevered imagination I couldn’t invent a name like that.

From my limited look at Lou’s facial features, his accent and the fact that he was nursing in the UK, I came to the (correct) conclusion that he was a Pinoy, a Philippino so I decided to take a punt and asked him which island he was from. I don’t suppose he was expecting the question and it caught him on the hop a bit, so I asked, “you are Pinoy {Philippino), aren’t you?” and the penny dropped. He told me his home place and that was it, another “new best friend”. He asked had I been and I gave him a quick rundown of my supposed five week trip in 2012 which had somehow turned into five months and was a superb adventure.

If you like you can have a look at my adventures (hanging out with “outlaw bikers”, illegal possession of firearms, a 6.9 earthquake and lots more) you can have look here.   I promise you the site is safe and one of the largest blog sites on the net, it is just that their operating system and I did not really see eye to eye.

Lou seemed genuinely surprised as have most of the Pinoy and Pinay (females from that country) that I have spoken to, unfortunately usually in hospital situations. I had never really thought about it much but I suppose it is not really a usual tourist destination for British people except perhaps the slightly more intrepid backpacker crowd. It should be much better known by my countrymen as it is a great destination although it is a considerable distance to travel, much further than the more popular Thailand or Vietnam.

Time for another digression now as I ask why there are so many Philippinos / Philippinas in the NHS although the question is rhetorical as I know the answer.

Firstly, the nursing training in the Philippines is of a very high standard and involves a four year University degree course as opposed to the three years required in the UK. Secondly, there is a large cultural history of care-giving long predating the Christian subjugation of the country and which seems to be so much more prevalent in Asia than the West which is not to denigrate in any way Western care-givers.

If you want to find out about this I recommend travelling to Siquijor island / Province and trying to find some “wok-woks” who are Witches / wise women / healers / herbalists or any one of a hundred other labels that are attached to them. The Government are trying to stamp them out and I cannot for the life of me find the image of the sign as you step off the ferry from Negros. This is a message from the Governor of the Province telling you that if anyone approaches you purporting to be a witch that you should ‘phone a freephone number to report them. Wok-woks are still there if you now where to look. Trust me on this!  If you follow the posts through on the old blog I have provided, you’ll find it.

I think, however, that it is the third reason that sways the matter of the prevalence of nurses from that wonderful country in the UK. The Philippines is a polyglot country which is hardly surprising in a nation of well over 100 million people spread over more than 7,500 islands. Depending on how you classify them, these 100 million plus people speak between 120 – 187 languages which could make academic life tricky to say the least so all University courses, except specifically Philippino based subjects like Philippino Literature, are conducted in English. This means that any Philippino qualified nurse is completely fluent in my Mother Tongue and not only speaking it conversationally but speaking in medical jargon.  A recent survey published in the (UK) Nursing Times estimated there were 40,000 Philippino nurses working in UK and I can personally attest to the quality of their care not only from personal experience but also regarding the care of my Father who is currently in a nursing home in Northern Ireland which is run by a lovely Philippina.

Coincidentally, the top nursing establishment in the Philippines is Silliman University in Dumaguete City where I spent four of my five months in the country and which I used to ride past almost daily on my borrowed motorbike.

I am going to really go for it now and offer an excursus off a digression to illustrate a point about language in the Phils. As mentioned above, I spent the vast majority of my time in Dumaguete which is on the island of Negros. Negros is not a huge island but it is split into two Provinces, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental which are to the West and East of the island obviously. Bacolod is the capital of Occidental and Dumaguete the capital of Oriental.

Before I had ended up in Dumaguete, or more accurately San Juan just outside it, I had spent some time with my friend Buena in Bacolod and had an utterly amazing Lunar (Chinese) New Year there. When I moved down to Dumaguete I invited her down for the weekend and was delighted when she agreed. It is less than 100 miles as the crow flies and 136 miles by road although it takes five hours on a bus! I had scored her a nipa hut in the place I was staying and one day we were in the bar chatting to my friend Hazel, the bar manageress and girlfriend of Mac, the owner.

We were all speaking English, which they both spoke perfectly and which I took to be a courtesy to me but it was nothing of the sort. Less than 150 miles apart they spoke two different languages. Buena spoke Ilonggo and Hazel spoke Cebuano so they had to communicate in English, it was really odd but it worked for me as at least they could not talk about me behind my back! I am joking, they were both absolute darlings and I have taken the liberty of including a picture of Hazel here to break up my undoubtedly monotonous ramblings. Due to the carnage that calls itself my filing system here on my laptop I cannot find an image of Buena although I know I took plenty. I may have lost them when I lost my camera after my motorcycle accident.  Again, if you wade through my previous blog there are pictures of her there.  I swear it never ceases to amaze me how pretty, intelligent young women seem to like hanging out with me and this is not false modesty, I genuinely don’t get it but, again, I’m not complaining.

image010

Buena had hosted me wonderfully in Bacolod and Hazel nursed me after I got out of hospital following the accident mentioned. She didn’t have to, she was a bar manageress but she and her friends just did it. It is no surprise I love that country and it’s outstandingly generous people.  I’ve included an image of Hazel above.

To finally return to the main thrust of this entry, men and women from the Phils are natural nurses, it just seems to be in the DNA somehow. It was exactly the same when I was hospitalised in the Philippines, the care was faultless even if the hospital lacked very modern equipment etc. but they looked after me brilliantly, patched me up and sent me home in one piece.  I suppose in a strange way I am fortunate  to have experienced Philippino care “home and away” and I can tell you it is peerless.

Oh dear, this is turning into yet another “War and Peace”. Tell you what, I’ll get myself admitted to hospital here (that isn’t really a spoiler, is it?) and then we’ll have a bit of a break or you will lose the will to live. All this writing and I haven’t even got into A&E proper yet.

I have never kissed the Blarney Stone and yet sometimes I feel as if I must have swallowed the damned thing. It is bizarre that in a “previous life” one of my jobs was precising (is that a proper word?) various huge reports into an easily digestible format. I think this blog must be some sort of delayed rebellion against that so where we?

Ah, yes, I was with the brilliantly named J2 Lou and still in triage. Holy Hannah Banana as my friend says (Hi, Lynne), I haven’t even got into A&E (ER) yet. Lou asked me if I could pull my jeans up so he could have a look at my leg but that was never going to happen. Between the swelling and the bandage it was jeans down and off or nothing and we were still in the public area so the Met. Police may have taken a dim view as there are laws against indecent exposure!

There was no doubt I was going to be admitted and Lou told me as much without actually saying it, not his job until a Doc had seen me but we both knew. He said we needed to go through so I could be examined so I stood up to hobble the couple of yards to the A&E door, not a chance. “Sit down Mr. Campbell, I’ll get you a chair”. What? I could see the A&E through the door but he wasn’t having it. Off he went and came back a moment later with a wheelchair. I know I could have walked in as I had walked to the hospital but they really were taking no chances.

Lou wheeled me into cubicle C9, isn’t it funny how your mind retains such trivial details when I cannot even remember my only nephew’s birthday? Sorry, Cammy. Lou saw me onto the usual Doctor’s couch, various versions of which seem to have seen rather too much of me this last year or so. I am getting used to it now and just laid down for a wait, utterly calm and wondering what the Hell was going to happen this time.

I knew there was something badly wrong, I knew the potential consequences from my conversation with Mr. Crinnion first time around and, yes, I reckoned there was a chance I could still lose my left leg as it obviously wasn’t right. Whilst I could still just about walk the symptoms were too close to the original ones for comfort, either physically or mentally. It was becoming painful.

Again, in no time flat, a youngish registrar came in and examined me. I think I mentioned in a previous Diary entry here an old maxim that you know when you are getting old as Doctors and policemen start to look young. It’s true! Again, I don’t know if it was because of the re-admission after recent discharge (for which read, “we screwed up and might get sued”) or because of the Chinese virus where the current Government advice seems to be, “don’t go near your Doctor or a hospital unless you are dying and even then think twice about it” which led to it being so quiet I could not say. Whatever it was, things were moving at lightning speed for A&E.

The good Doctor asked me to remove my jeans which presented him with a pretty unpleasant looking bandage. The walking had made me leak a lot, it was running down into my sock and sorry if you were eating whilst you were reading this, it wasn’t pretty.

He excused himself and enter stage right (actually it was directly in front but I do not know the stage blocking term for that) the lovely Rois, staff nurse of that Parish.
I had a quick chat with her where I found out she was from Glasgow and I asked her about a nightclub with the slightly risqué name of the Cathouse where I had done some photography for the website of a guy I know called Fish and who will feature quite heavily in the next diary entry. Rois told me it was still going strong and we had a chat about it as well as the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which I love and sundry other matters pertaining to Glasgow. Bingo, “New Best Friend” #2.

Rois? Odd name. I had known a few Roisins in my time including the physio who had told me to quit rugby many times and who I had stupidly ignored to my later cost. I know Roisin means “little rose” so I was guessing Rois meant Rose. With my compulsion to talk to anyone unlucky enough to come within hailing distance I was soon deep in conversation with the good staff nurse about the origin of her name as she was chopping the blood soaked bandages off my leg and, yes, Rois did indeed mean Rose, just not in the diminutive. Of course, that led to another conversation and it will lead to another digression here.

In Gaelic, the suffix “in” simply means little or small and perhaps the best known example is poitin, or poteen if Anglicised, which is the usually illicit potato spirit of Ireland. Poitin literally translates as “little pot” which is how it is distilled. For many years I had the privilege, and I do count it a privilege, to have played in a band called the  Northern Celts with the wonderful Bridie Staunton. Bridie was one of the finest fiddle players I ever played with and I have rather surprisingly been lucky enough to play with some great ones although I am still not quite sure how it happened.
Gigging 008

Sadly, Bridie is no longer with us having died during routine surgery at the relatively young age of 70 and she was mourned by the Irish music community from London and beyond. Her funeral was held at Golder’s Green Crematorium and I have never seen anything quite like it. In the days before anti-social media we were sending e-mails like mad and making ‘phone calls from the address books we all used to have. The reason was that Bridie’s daughter Imelda wanted to have a traditional music session after the funeral as that was her Mother’s great love and she would have liked that.

The response to our communications was mad. On the appointed day, just about every traditional musician from London and the Home Counties turned up at the crematorium, the place was packed and some could not even get in. It is not a big venue and we all had instrument cases so it was decided to put all the instruments against the back wall. I have never seen such a collection of instruments and I have played quite a few festivals.

You may have worked out from what I have already told you who Bridie’s daughter is, she is Imelda Staunton the Oscar nominated actress, BAFTA winner and a lovely woman. She is married to Jim Carter, another renowned actor who conducted the non-religious service. After an extensive search in the wreckage of my image filing system I found the image you can see above of Bridie and myself. It was taken in the Royal Albert pub in Royal College Street in Camden if you’re interested.

After the service and committal we all decamped to the very famous Spaniards Inn up by Hampstead Heath. It is an old place, very old and as such it has a number of rooms off the main bar of varying sizes. Imelda had booked them all. The management wanted to keep the main bar open for locals and passing trade which is completely understandable although it was full of mourners as well.

The largest of the side rooms was reserved for the session, or seisun in the Gaelic, that was to be Bridie’s epitaph. We all got in, found seats and I went to the bar where the very professional staff looked after us brilliantly all day. I got my pint and asked, “How much is that”? The young lady behind the bar asked, “Are you with the funeral party” to which I obviously replied in the affirmative (the black tie and dark suit should have been a giveaway) and was told that it was all sorted. I didn’t mind paying, I was just here to honour a most remarkable woman and was going to have a good drink in her memory which was slightly curtailed as i didn’t want to appear greedy at someone else’s expense but Imelda came round at one point, thanked us all for attending and told us to drink our fill. Needless to say, we didn’t need much further persuasion.

There was, however, a bit of grit in the ointment. Dear Bridie was held in such regard and so many musicians turned up with their instruments that we couldn’t all fit in the room set aside for the purpose but it was never going to be a problem with the calibre of musicians who were there and we quickly split into two groups. Those who had taken a while to get there or who had taken a half day off work or whatever (it was midweek) just set up in the smaller room on the far side of the bar from where we were playing.
It worked out great as there was enough space between us that we were not playing across each other and the non-musicians who turned up had a choice of not one but two top-class sessions (again, I emphasise that I do not include myself in that description, I was merely there by good fortune) to choose from. I know Bridie would have approved heartily and it was a fitting tribute to a dear lady who not only taught me a tremendous amount about traditional music but also a tremendous amount about life as well. I won’t even bore you with stories of the puncture wounds in my ribcage from the end of her bow! Rest easy, peteen, you are still much missed and will be as long as any of us who knew you have breath in our bodies.

Bridie left us in 2004 and I know I shaved my head in 1992 to trek in Nepal so the image is somewhere in that time-frame and trying to remember when we played that particular residency I think it is the early 2000’s although I could be wrong.

Back to cubicle C9 at the RLH and the Registrar told me he had spoken to the on-call vascular surgeon who was going to come and have a look. Fine, I am well used to waiting and so I adopted an old Forces practice of sleep when you can and eat when you can because you don’t know when you’ll get it again. I know it sounds somewhat ridiculous to say it after having told you about my insomnia and nocturnal habits but when I feel like having a kip I can “sleep on a clothes-line, easy as pie” to quote the late Rory Gallagher.

I closed my eyes and I don’t know if I dozed off a little bit and if so for how long but the next thing I knew was a very familiar voice asking, “Fergus, what the Hell are you doing back here”. It was Doc. Aaron Goh, one of the two surgeons who had operated on me before and who seemed to have been allocated to take day to day charge of my care. I am not sure I had even opened my eyes as I replied, “It’s all gone a bit tits up, Doc”.

I should make a point here (yet another one, I hear you moan in unison) and that is the way Doc. Goh and I speak to each other. I do not know what BMA (the Doctor’s professional body in the UK) advice is re: conversations with patients / bedside manner but I had built up a bit of a rapport with the Doc. and we spoke fairly freely with each other which I appreciated. I don’t want to get him in trouble by publishing this although I doubt the Ethics Commissioner or whatever they are called will ever read my blog but I would rather have the Doc. speak openly to me in language I can understand than have someone spout a load of technical terms I have no idea about.  Doc. Goh tells me exactly what is what and makes me feel comfortable about it.

The worst situation of all, and I have spoken to other patients in hospital about this who agree, is when a group of Doctors stand about beside your bed and talk about you as if you are not there, that is annoying. It tends to happen when they are doing Doctor’s rounds with trainees in tow and I know they have to learn but it is still an annoyance. In quiet moments one or two of the nursing staff have also agreed with that analysis.

The Doc. asked me what I had done since my discharge and I told him I had done exactly what I had been told to do. Leg elevated, minimum movement etc. I had not even had a chance to go to the nurse to have my dressing changed. I asked him what he thought the problem might be and he said cellulitis. Not knowing what that meant (I do now, it is “a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection”, that is taken straight from the Web) I joked, “Isn’t that what women worry about on their bums? Oh no, that’s cellulite”. He chuckled and explained cellulitis to me and told me it was easily enough treated with antibiotics and rest.

Doc. Goh also thought there might be another underlying problem and so I was given a gown which I just heaved on over my Irish rugby shirt and underpants. When I dug out the image of Bridie and myself earlier, I noticed it was the same bloody shirt thirty years later. It is falling to pieces but I love it. Nobody can ever accuse me of being a clothes horse. I have 30 year old gig / tour T-shirts I still wear and love.

It must have been a strange look as hospital gowns are short sleeved and here was I with a long-sleeved rugby shirt on under it but I wasn’t going to be walking down a catwalk that day. Rather stupidly I had allowed myself to be talked into that particular nonsense once in about 1985 modelling as the groom in a charity bridal fashion show. Oh dear, not my thing at all and I had to have about a half bottle of brandy in me before I could even contemplate it. I don’t even drink brandy, it just seemed like a good idea at the time like so many things in my life! Still, it went well and I didn’t make a major rick of it, I even ended up with my picture in the local paper.

Shortly after, the lovely Rois appeared back with another staff nurse who she introduced as Amy and asked if it was OK if she “stood in” as she had never seen a fasciotomy before in the much abused flesh as it were. Sure, no problem to me and I told her that if there were any others that wanted to come and see my wounds to go and gather them up. I joked that we could have a party.

You probably know by now that I am neither modest nor shy and what there was of my dignity was being preserved by the gown. I have never refused a request for trainee doctors to examine me or such like, what is the point in that? You can learn a lot from books and lectures but you learn a Hell of a lot more from seeing and doing.

Later on in my stay I was to be examined by a trainee radiographer (I did not know she was training at the outset as she was very professional, she must have been in the final stages of her  course), a charming young lady whose work was then overseen by a more senior colleague (Australian guy who I had a great rugby chat with). The young lady asked if it was OK to bring hi in, a professional courtesy I suppose. When he had checked over all she had done he asked me if I minded him taking a few more “angles” and I told him that if they were not pushed for time they could do whatever they liked by way of a training exercise, so they did. I had sussed the “trainee” situation by then. I was going nowhere in hurry so it was no hardship to me.

I was moved this way and that but it was not uncomfortable and I was happy to do it. If I was on my right side I could see the screen and I was asking the occasional question as to what various things were and they seemed happy to tell me. It is like I said many times when I was in there, being in hospital is like watching the Open University on TV and if you show an interest the staff seem delighted to tell you all about it. It is actually quite fun to look inside yourself, in a physical rather than a philosophical sense. I’m not sure how far I want to look inside in a more moral context.

Rois and Amy took into re-bandaging my leg which took a bit of time as it needed a fair amount of cleaning and they could only do that by dripping saline on it and then the lightest pressure with gauze, but they got it done and then bandaged it beautifully. I have been bandaged by numerous nurses since this little adventure started and I have a running joke in that I tell them I am an expert (I am now!) and that like ice skating or Strictly Come Dancing I give marks out of 10. It usually raises a bit of a smile, well as far as I can tell behind a surgical mask. Obviously I always give 10! It just lightens the mood a bit.

Amy had a bit of an accent although not very strong but I took another punt and asked her was she Canadian. I can usually tell fairly accurately the difference between a Canadian and an American accent which seems to stump a lot of my countrymen. She was indeed Canadian, from Toronto. I told her I had never been there but that I had spent a total of about nine months in that wonderful country.

With her short-sleeved scrubs on I could see that she had tattoos but they were very unusual in that they were a series of small minimalist images, almost childish in concept, well spaced out so that was another instant conversation about the rationale behind her style etc. I told her I had got one of my tattoos done in Canada and we had a chat about various aspects of Canadian life, I seem to remember that poutine got a mention (look it up if you don’t know what it is) and that was it, NBF #3.

I had hobbled in the door less than an hour before and there I was with three new acquaintances. OK, I use the term “New Best Friend” very much tongue in cheek but when the porter came to wheel me to my next port of call, Rois and J2 Lou were both standing at the nurses station and waved to me with a cheery word. That meant lot to me.

My next port of call, almost inevitably was ultrasound and they did what they had to do as best they could bearing in mind they could not scan my lower leg. I don’t know why but I do not remember if I had another scan or not which is odd as I remember everything else perfectly. I suspect I have had so many scans this last year that they all merge into one.

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Whatever happened, the porter eventually came for me and I asked him where I was going. He told me 10E and I was a bit disappointed, I would rather have liked to go back to 3E because I know everyone there. Still, I knew 10E had a nice view West as it is where I had watched the lovely sunset the night of my very first admission which seemed like so long ago now. It was explained to me later that 10E was now an admissions ward where you went until you could get a bed in the ward relevant to your problem.

I suspect the Chinese virus has thrown everything into confusion as I know from the meal tickets that 10E is supposed to be a gastro-enterology ward and 3E is meant to be a stroke ward (see the meal ticket imge above).  I know stroke is a vascular problem so it makes sense but I did not meet anyone in all my time in there that was suffering from that awful affliction.

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I know the entire 15th floor is CoVid isolation now so presumably everything is on a “war footing”. We even had a few nurses on one night who had come from a completely random ward as theirs had been closed for whatever reason. If you look at the image above, which was taken the next day, you can see what I mean about 10E, it was empty and yet I was later to meet a gastro patient in the vascular ward.  Strange times indeed.

OK, that is me admitted and after this monstrous volume, it seems like a reasonable time to break, you must be cracking up by now if you have read this far.

I am going to indulge in an “in-joke” here. Sorry, Doc., your “cameo role” is in the process of being updated to leading man status. I am in the process of discussing it with the scriptwriter, which obviously means I am talking to myself again, and if the rest of you are baffled just wait until you meet the Doc. in the next Diary, he isn’t even anything to do with the hospital. Work that one out.

Sorry this has taken so long to come to press but if you have any desire to know what happened next (do give yourself a while to recover from this one) Diary #8 will be along in a couple of days barring accidents. Let’s face it, I am going nowhere further than the hospital, the Doctor’s surgery and the nearest small supermarket for the foreseeable.

I do hope you can join me as you really have to meet the Doc, and you’ll learn about epoch time if you don’t know what it is (it is fascinating and I know you want to look it up now). You will even learn about the physics involved in working a follow spot for a theatrical production so how’s that for a bit of craziness. I tell you, hospitals are bloody interesting places. I hope with all my heart that none of my readers ever have to go there but realistically the chances are that some of you will, I am a pragmatist. If you do, try and make the most of it, strange as that sounds. Honestly, you can make it a whole lot better than awful.

If you want to know what happens now I am in there again, stay tuned and spread the word.

Author: Fergy.

Hello there and welcome to my blog which is the last attempt of a retiree and child of the 50's to overcome advanced technophobia and create a memoir of my rambles having had three commercial travel blog sites pulled from under me in just over a year. A learning curve like Everest! I am rapidly approaching a senior citizen bus pass and realistically I have more days independent travelling behind me than before so I intend to "do it while I still can" and am trying to cram in as much as I can now. Apart from travelling, I love playing music (guitar, vocals and a bit of percussion) as the profile pic suggests and sport, although my active participation is now restricted to the very occasional game of pool. I read voraciously, probably a legacy from my dear late Mother who was a librarian and encouraged me towards books from an early age. I'll read just about anything although I do have a particular interest in military history of all periods. I live alone in fairly central London where I have been for over 30 years since leaving Northern Ireland which was the place of my birth, youth and early manhood. Partially by necessity although more by love of the art I adore cooking and I can and do read recipe books and watch food programmes on TV / online all day. Nothing fancy and none of your nouvelle cuisine nonsense, just hopefully tasty, proper food. To my knowledge, I have not poisoned anyone yet! No doubt other little personal facts about me will emerge during the course of my writings here so stay tuned if you are at all interested.

9 thoughts on “Lock-down Diaries #7”

  1. A few days back I finished reading a book and was at a loss to know what to read next. Well as luck would have it, I happened on your blog again ….. as good (and as long … and I mean that in a nice way) as any book I have read so that’s what I am now reading. Sad to see you had to return to hospital, careful in following instructions as you were. Again I hope to read of improvement soon. Your reference to the Balmoral Inn and Angel Delight brought a smile to my face though in terms of pubs I more frequented the Bot or the Egg (not a regular in either though to be honest) … I imagine you know them but perhaps they were more Queen’s students hangouts? Like Malc and yourself I loved Angel Delight – I recall it having a slightly soapy taste. I have neither sen nor heard of it in 30 years!

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    1. Hello again mate,

      thanks so much for wading your way through all my nonsense and I am sorry to report there is a whole lot more to come, it really is a bit of a saga one way and another.

      The Balmoral was a much later venue for me, only when I moved up that way. I went to Methody and the Bot was our “home ground”, it was only about three hundred yards from the back gate! The Egg wasn’t quite so popular (probably because they were a bit more particular about underage drinking) but we got in there now and again. Last time I was in there on about 2015 with my Canadian mate Lynne they had a Buckfast cocktail bar in there if you can believe that! You can imagine what she made of that when I explained what Buckie actually was, it freaked her out.

      Where did you hang out in Belfast? The Union, the Club? Kelly’s? Robinson’s/ The Crown?

      Dammit, we might as well sit about here and have a reminisce, damn all else to do these days.

      Like you, I have not seen Angel Delight for years but Sainsbury’s still do their own version of it which tastes just the same, I do make it up now and again just to relive the old days.

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  2. Oh dear, I might have guessed the saga wasn’t over yet, but from your latest comments to me elsewhere I’m assuming things picked up eventually. I’ll have to read on to see …

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    1. Go on, bonny lass (I have my Geordie head on now), have a good read. Yes, I do do it on purpose, it muses me.

      Obviously I am still breathing or else this would be really spooky and I don’t really do Goth. I keep sticking the mascara brush in my eye! I am well short of 100% but seem to be improving, it is just going to take rather a long time.

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  3. It’s good to see you haven’t lost your sense of humour. I find writing can be great therapy. It brings back memories and keeps me sane (mind you that’s debatable). At the end of the day I look at it like this. You have to do these things because you want to them for yourself. It’s no good thinking that you’re doing it for any other reason, because by and large, hardly anybody else gives a toss. Stay strong and stay safe.

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  4. Well, what can I say Fergy? Yes, it is another epic chapter of everything that’s been going on in your life recently (and before), and I have to admit that I didn’t read every single solitary word, but every part of the story is fascinating. There are so many parts to it that I could comment on, but there are far too many ( I loved Angel Delight by the way 🙂 )

    As a side-note, you may remember that I was having problems of my own. I won’t lie to you, I really thought that my left leg was also for the chop (I had an infection), but the nursing care (and my determination) has meant that it looks as though I’m out of the woods now.

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    1. Firstly mate, I am so glad you are in the clear. What was it? Strep? I know you and I are of an age and of broadly similar interests i.e. exploring and rambling and so on and the concept of losing your mobility to that extent really does focus the mind, doesn’t it?

      Let’s be honest, much as we’d like to be, we are not young men any more so I suppose the best we can do is try to keep ourselves as healthy as we can given our advancing years and make the best of what we have left.

      If you still have the will to live after these massive tomes (and I don’t blame you for not reading them all, I just write because I have bugger all else to do when I cannot walk) and you know I love writing (yes, I am a gobby twat), there will soon be a piece about the Doc and his wife (who I have spoken to on the ‘phone but not yet met). Obviously she could not visit due to the Chinese virus.

      Doc is a Ph.D in some sort of mentally advanced physics and his wife is studying for her Masters in English Lit. When all this current nonsense goes past and when I can walk again (frankly I doubt if I’ll ever walk properly again judging by the state of my leg) they want me to show them round the East End. I can’t believe it. The poor sods moved here from West Hampstead (NW London) in the first week of house arrest (I know it is officially “lockdown” but I prefer the truth) andthey have not got a clue.

      Nice yuppie flat in Shoreditch and so terribly all alone. OK, they have each other but as soon as I can walk any distance I have promised the Doc to walk the legs off them and show them the East End.

      You’ll remember Regina and Sarah and Jonothan and Kristi from VT? I’ve walked them all round the East End and a load of others, I love doing it. It will be fun and if I ever need to split the atom twice I have the right guy on my side. Wait till you read the story about how he screwed up basic geometry, it is hilarious and there is photographic proof!

      I knew you had mentioned you had not been well but I didn’t know it was so serious, I wish you a speedy recovery.
      i
      Keep your eyes out for the blogs, they get seriously surreal and hopefully amusing later on. Wait till you see a Ph’D thesis on how to work a follow spot onstage when I could do it with five O levels!

      Priceless.

      Keep yourself safe, my dear friend and we’ll speak soon.

      Fergy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve had a few health issues in the last couple of years, but I really can’t complain Fergy to be honest. When I look around and see what’s going on elsewhere I count my blessings. I always had it in mind that when the time came to take a step back from working and travelling I would sift through my back catalogue of photos and start to put pen to paper so to speak.

        Your next post has whetted my appetite already. It sounds like a good read and I shall be looking out for it.

        In the meantime, concentrate getting yourself back to being as healthy as you can, and even more importanly, as happy as you can.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much Malc,

          your constant comments and conversations really do mean a lot to me.

          Obviously, I have retired some years ago but I still think I will have a bit more travelling left in me after this current nonsense sorts itself out although the hospital aren’t doing me any favours. Woke up this morning and the dressing was a mess, all sorts of disgusting olive green gunk. I was due to have it re-dressed by the practice nurse at the GP’s and when she cut off the bandage she went straight to get the Doc. I am not a medical man, although I do have some training and I took one look at it and it screamed infection at me. The Doc appeared, examined me, confirmed what I had diagnosed and said she would ‘phone the hospital to have me admitted immediately. I knew this would happen so I had brought my hospital bag” and was quite prepared for re-dmission as they clearly had not cleared up the cellulitis and / or veinal clots that had me re-admitted last week.

          Last Monday, the very head man, Mr. Crinnion, who only visits on Monday as he is so important he is all over the place both public and private, had told me I would need to be in for at least a week and yet, the next day, one of his juniors was trying to discharge me. I asked to have that decision reviewed which bought me another night but they insisted on kicking me out on Wednesday, how does that work?

          I had been on IV antibiotics and they send me home without any antibiotics at all, it beggars belief. Anyway, today the GP came back and said the London had refused to admit me because I didn’t have a temperature and therefore wasn’t septic. Tell that to the poor nurse who had to clean the gunge out of my wounds. I think I am n embarrassment to them as they have erroneously discharged me with indecent haste now and it has come back to bite them. No I certainly do not want to bed block and I am not swinging the lead, the evidence is plainly visible.

          Realistically, I cannot see me having anything like reasonable movement this year, it is all I can do to get the 800 yards or so to the Doc’s and they have put me onto daily re-dressing now. Hardly surprising really. It is a pain, literally and metaphorically but it is not insurmountable.

          I have already resigned myself to the fact that my style of travelling is not going to be the same as it was until about 2018. I think I’ll be able to do independent to a degree although no overnight buses and the like. I’m still happy enough to do hostels and cheap B&B’s though, a bed’s a bed really. My biggest problem now is the cocktail of drugs I will have to resupply every so often but I know others do it all the time (diabetics and so on) so it cannot be impossible. The syringes might be more problematical.

          As I said, my health is going to take a fair while to recover I reckon, these wounds are going to be months healing, especially as they are keeping my blood artificially thin.

          Counter-intuitively, I am not actually depressed at all, it is my own stupid fault for bad lifestyle choices over decades and yet I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t actually mind being in hospital, it can be quite a laugh (wait till you meet the Doc in the next Diary!) if you go about it the right way. We are best mates now despite being like chalk and cheese and I have agreed to take him and his wife out for a few wanders round the East End when things get back to some semblance of normality.

          Even if I can’t travel so much or as I would like to, I am in the same position as you, I have so much old stuff to put on this site, mostly old VT articles I saved. Even if I started now, I’d never get it all done before I died.

          Speaking of which, I suppose I’d better get back to some more writing now, so look after yourself and we’ll speak soon.

          Fergy.

          Liked by 1 person

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