Hello again to all of you and it is good to be back. The day I posted my “comeback” entry after my three month hiatus I had no less than 102 visitors from 15 countries which does not sound terribly impressive when some people get thousands of views per hour but it is easily my biggest daily total ever so thanks to each and every one of you. I was pretty amazed when I checked the morning after, indeed my flabber has never been go gasted or should that be my gast has never been so flabbered, who knows? Who cares?
A quick word of explanation as to the title here. I originally composed the majority of this piece a very long time ago and it was destined to be Lock-down Dairies #11 but my last effort has rendered it #12 which ordinarily would not be a problem except that the first dozen or so paragraphs refer to the game of bingo which took me hours to research and I am damned if I am going to let them go to waste!
If you wish to know what a bingo call has to do with my health situation as of July 2020 you know what to do, just click the “read more” button below and you’ll be most welcome.
Hello there and thanks for jumping in, so how does bingo relate to me lying in the Royal London Hospital in early July 2020? Read on and I’ll tell you. Incidentally, a quick word of warning. There are one or two slightly gruesome images in this post and that is only the food. Only joking, it is not too bad really, but there are some images of open wounds etc. I should also mention that some of the images I may have already used as I was not exactly running round the ward doing a photo-journalism piece and I did not want to take images of people in hospital for obvious reasons. I include them merely to break up the monotony of my written drivel!
Well, could anything be more inappropriate than me thinking of using an old bingo expression and initially calling this entry “Legs Eleven” bearing in mind that when I wrote it I could barely walk after surgery and it does undoubtedly require some explanation. Legs were really not my strongest point then.
I am not sure how global the concept of bingo is and it is a big leap I know when even a small physical leap would have been joy unconfined for me when I wrote this. What about that for a shift of emphasis? Bear with me, you know I’ll get there in the end and I shall be keen to find out what my lovely readers know of this very popular British pastime.
The game is often wrongly regarded as a quintessentially British idea but it was actually “borrowed” from the Italians who had invented it centuries before under the name Lotto and in the days before Italy was a even a unified country. It has developed from there into the global phenomenon it still is.
In the early 20th century an enterprising American, who was making a lot of money out of producing the equipment required, called it “Beano” because small beans (pulses really) were used to cover the numbers already called in the way players now cross them off with a marker pen. Legend has it that one of his friends, in a fit of mad excitement during a game (I do find this hard to believe) instead of calling “Beano” for a filled line or card, shouted “Bingo” for some unexplained reason and the rest, as they so often say, is history.
In the modern game (again I explain this for my many welcome readers from all over the planet who may not even know what bingo is) randomly numbered balls are drawn, often from a spinning basket, to ensure this supposed randomness and announced by the “caller”. Everyone in the audience has a card with numbers numbers (normally 1 – 90) theroen and players mark them off as the balls are drawn. If you are the first to complete a line on your card or complete a full card, you should shout, “House” or, “Bingo” whereupon, if you have marked correctly, you win a prize. Sadly, there are no prizes in my little game.
I have to say that I do not particularly like the game of bingo although I have been coerced into calling it once or twice. Let’s be honest, I have done worse things. I have played Black Lace and Chicory Tip covers (look them up if you must) in my very chequered “musical” career and I do use the term very loosely but yes I can still play Agadoo, to my eternal shame. I sometimes dread to think how much further I can fall. Look Agadoo up on YouTube if you must but do yourself a favour, mute it and just laugh at the clothes and the dancing.
Anyway, the “callers” have a language all their own and which the punters (always overwhelmingly female) seem to love. Let me give you a few examples and apologies to any of who who regularly attend your local Gala (a major UK bingo chain) although I suspect that will be a small minority of my readership.
Anything in single figures is announced as “on its own” e.g. “on it’s own, number four”. The exception to that was “Kelly’s Eye, number one” for reasons lost in the mists of time. Presumably some poor man called Kelly had lost an eye at some point.
Unremarkable numbers like 37 are announced as “three and seven, 37” but there are loads of special numbers. 21 is “key of the door” as that was what it was traditionally. If you were not off and married by 21 and still lived with your parents, you got your own key to the front door at 21 so you could come and go as you pleased. You see, dear reader, even something as simple as a game of bingo is a piece of social history. I know you are probably bored to death already but I love trivia like this.
“Sweet 16, never been kissed” (unlikely where I live), “Clickety click – 66”, presumably for no better reason than it was onomatopoeiac (sp?) “Two fat ladies” – 88, unkind and definitely politically incorrect but graphically very accurate. Some of the best callers had a huge array of these and were in great demand especially in holiday resorts like Blackpool, Cromer, Southend or wherever. It is strange to think how and where our forebears got their holiday kicks before package holidays to Faliraki and Mallorca (or the local equivalent wherever the reader may be), isn’t it?
Then again, and just as a little something to ponder, were our “staycation” ancestors more happy with their holiday choices than us? Who knows, and who is in a position to judge? How will it be when “anti-social distancing” renders every long-distance flight economically unviable for the traveller not on an expense account and leaves the poor economy consumer high and dry. The rules of competition will no longer apply, at least as applicable to long-haul travel. At least three major airlines (BA, KLM and Qantas) have already sent their entire fleets of 747’s to the breakers yard in Nevada and no doubt others will follow. Welcome to the rest of your travel life!
Forget you next trip to Thailand or Bali or wherever, get used to the concept of doing a Phileas Fogg (or indeed Michael Palin as his 20th century counterpart). Plan on travelling overland once again, possibly not so far and certainly not so fast but for better or worse? I know I have long dreamt about hugely long-distance trips overland and still do. I am juggling several ideas for when I am properly mobile again and can be more than 48 hours from the exceptional care of an NHS nurse. (Update November 2020. When I wrote this I had to attend my local surgery every other day to have my wounds dressed by a nurse practitioner. I will still need to be able to access the large amount of medication I have to take).
Overland travel is eminently possible and great fun. I had a bit of it in 2017 when I spent several months exploring eight countries in Europe when I had initially set out for four days in the Netherlands. If you want to read all about that little escapade you can read all about it here.
I knew a great guy online that set off and cycled from the UK to New Zealand. OK, he is good but not supernatural and he had to fly the last leg (back to legs again, I must be obsessed!) from Singapore to Auckland if I remember rightly but you get the idea. He is rightly up there, in my book, with the Marco Polo’s, the ill-fated Franklins and the Capt. James Cook’s of the world and best of all for me is that he did it completely on his own. No corporate sponsorship, not a lot of money in his moneybelt, he just took off. He didn’t even have a flash bike, I think he paid not too much for his if memory serves. I know his is a very long read but it is a great story and I won’t issue a spoiler here but the reason for the journey which is revealed at the end would bring tears from a stone and would easily be worthy of a Hollywood script. Let’s be honest, such scripts have been written on a damn sight flimsier premises. Have a look here if you want a great read.
I give you fair warning that if you decide to read all of his epic journeys that Chris writes even more than me, and far better, but it is an ideal binge read if you are under house arrest. It’ll take you days!
I’ll leave my earlier vague travel questions hanging and hopefully I’ll still be around long enough to get back on the road when all this calms down a bit. There will undoubtedly be places that will be more relaxed than others about the whole situation, for purely economic reasons. Places like Spain, Greece and Portugal for example who are so reliant on the tourist £ / € / $. For UK residents like me this will presumably still be the case both post pandemic and post Brexit. Others may see an opportunity and any Government with any sort of a beach / scenery and some foresight can surely cash in as things change..
I still want to follow the Crusader route all the way to Jerusalem although that is a non-starter under current circumstances which are nothing to do with the pandemic. Travelling has, for a number of reasons, changed beyond the comprehension of people of my generation who not so long ago had embraced it so warmly. This particular little project is ideally suited to no-fly travel, there were no ‘planes at the time of the First Crusade in 1096. Another similar option would be any of the subsequent Crusades as they all fascinate me but then again, most things fascinate me.
Will any of this current nonsense stop me from visiting the continents that I love so much and where I spend so much time? No, obviously not, when I am able again to do so. The only things (plural) that are stopping me are firstly that I can barely walk (again, this was written months ago) and secondly that a lot of countries won’t let me in becuase of the pandemic. Most tellingly, my annual travel insurance is screwed. The insurance companies must be laughing all the way to the bank as they usually do. I renewed my annual policy in about December 2019 or January 2020 and by March 2020 they had e-mailed me to effectively say that I was not covered to travel as far at the nearest Tube station! Refund for lack of the service promised? What do you think? Not a chance. Just hide behind the pandemic and sit on the profits.
The same with the National railcard I was delighted to be able to obtain in January when I got officially old. I have made one return journey on and it since then I am effectively forbidden to use long distance trains. Refund? I’ll let you guess the answer again. They are happily sitting on our money (millions) and with no expectation of having to provide any sort of service in return. Come to think of it, little has changed in that department. The only people they collectively serve are shareholders and over-paid senior executives. Please get in touch and tell me if I am wrong but I doubt it.
The deal with travel insurance is that you buy an annual policy and then they basically tell you it is invalid, hiding behind the pandemic as a cover. They sit on all the millions they have amassed and safe in the knowledge they will never have to pay anything out because they have seen fit to issue a blanket abnegation of responsibility. There you go, a couple of hundred of my pounds sterling for the shareholders and the Executives totally risk free. Multiply that by the number of people in the same position and I am sure it is a tidy sum. I am seriously in danger of becoming a socialist and that is a very serious step for me.
Not that I am sure you are in the slightest interested but I am going to tell you now how this blog and specifically these Diaries are thrown together, and I use the word thrown advisedly.
As I was re-reading, some days after originally writing it, I found that this entry about my second hospitalisation had degenerated into a multi-paragraph piece on what I think is wrong with tertiary education in the UK of all things.
I tend to write, and I know it is an allusion I use too often and without any literary credentials for doing so, in the style of Jack Kerouac and certain others of the “beat generation”. To use yet another analogy, and again without any basis in artistic ability, it is like Jason Pollock throwing things at a bit of canvas and seeing what happens.
I suspect I am way too long in the tooth now to change the way I write as I only know the one style but at least you’ll be glad to know that I have exercised enough self-control to cut and paste that particular discussion into my next Diary entry (yes, there will be another one eventually) so you are at least forewarned and therefore forearmed and can avoid it if you wish.
Diaries? What is this conceit on my part? Others like Pepys, who I have mentioned often before here, are now famed for their diaries which serve as a wonderful account of daily life three hundred plus years ago. Perhaps someone will find this in 2320 or whatever and see it as a commentary on life in what is left of the UK in the early 21st century. That may well be an arrogant conceit as I have no reason to think that anyone 300 years from now will want to read my idiotic ramblings but I think it makes a point.
The point it hopefully makes is that we now live, rightly or wrongly, in a world of instant communication and, slightly more disturbingly, instant gratification. You go out somewhere with your mobile ‘phone, take an image, post it on Instagram and you apparently have instant gratification or so the perceived “wisdom” goes. I think it is a well-named site and whoever put it up is now presumably a multi-millionaire at least, he had the smarts to think about this. Instagram? How close is that linguistically to Instagrat or even Instaorgasm? Do not dismiss this, think about it as I know the majority of people who follow this site personally and I know you to be intelligent people so you’ll get it.
Thankfully we can hopefully resist this mental onslaught but I fear for the children caught in this web (pun intended), where will their minds be when they are old enough to vote? I won’t even go down that road now. Whither lies democracy, if indeed it ever existed in recent times?
Right, that is more than enough of that so let’s get back to hospital, not that I would wish that on any of my lovely readers obviously. I’ll just break up the narrative here with a couple of images which I may or may not have used before but they are all from the relevant period. Please note the immaculately tailored hospital pyjama trousers, which are all my own work obviously but it worked in keeping them off the bandages. Hardly Savile Row and hacked away in situ with a pair of nurse’s sisters but it did the job.
After the day of the 5th of July which took such a long time do describe over two Diary entries I had passed relatively unscathed to the 6th, a Tuesday. Because of all that had happened and which had necessitated not one but two days Diaries for a single day, I had deliberately not told you about the Doctor’s ward rounds on the Monday (the day before this entry) so it is time to regress briefly here.
I was under the care of Mr. Crinnion, who I have discussed before and who is a very top vascular surgeon but that was purely down to luck. I had been admitted initially on a Monday afternoon and I have subsequently discovered that Monday is the only day he usually attends the Royal London. He is a very busy man both within the NHS and in private practice so it was pure chance that he saw me not long before he went off for the evening and sorted out what needed to be done, handing over to his night crew who were so brilliant and operated so successfully.
I was quite surprised to see Mr. Crinnion on the Monday as I hadn’t seen him since my re-admission and, as always, he was very straight and very civil with me, which I like. A lot of the younger Doctors talk about you as if you are not there which is a bit of an annoyance but Mr. Crinnion is brilliant. He looked at all the relevant bits and pieces, enquired how I felt and told me what had gone wrong in simple terms. Fine, that suits me.
I asked Mr. Crinnion realistically how long I might be in for this time and he said, slightly apologetically, “Well, we’d like to keep you in and keep an eye on you, so perhaps a week”. OK, fine, if that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes and I had already resigned myself to at least another week in Ward 3E without medical confirmation but there are worse places in the world to be, believe me.
Back then to the morning of this Diary entry and I was quite astounded when one of the other Doctors quite cheerfully announced, “It’s OK, Mr. Campbell, hopefully we’ll have you out of here this afternoon”. What? I was only in here again because they had discharged me too early the first time and I really did not want all that again. I asked if he had spoken to Mr. Crinnion, a question he completely avoided and I asked if he could please contact the senior surgeon, the man nominally in charge of my case before he discharged me. I have no idea what he said as he didn’t really talk to me at all but rather to his colleagues as if I wasn’t there and then they all rushed along to his next bed with me none the wiser.
I have no idea what happened that day or even if Mr. Crinnion was contacted but I was still there that night. That is not a problem, the bed is more comfortable than mine at home. I did my usual of reading and watching documentaries on the BBC iPlayer (I do recommend it if you can get it where you are) and awoke fine and happy the next day. Another day, another something to overcome but at least I had the comfort of looking out the two windows at streets and buildings I knew, even if so many of them had changed since I jad first come to the capital. The world moves on but I could still see some familiar places.
I had an ongoing row with the nurses. No, row is not the right word, I had an ongoing discussion with them and did I mention how brilliant RLH nurses are? The discussion revolved about paracetamol, something you can go and buy in your local chemists, a commonly obtainable drug. OK, I was taking Omeprazole, Vitaman B strong compound and a few other things but why did I need to take paracetamol? I knew it was a paikiller. I knew the aspirin I was also taking was a blood thinner as well as a painkiller but why this one? It was easily done but I wondered and I asked was there another reason. Did it have any other medicinal properties rather than pain relief? “No” was the simple answer. I told the nurse I was not in pain and I wouldn’t want to take it any more. Here is a slightly blurred image (sorry but I wasn’t exactly concentrating on my photography) o one of the several cocktails I had to take daily. By the look of it, this one was breakfast.
I don’t have a problem taking pills, which is useful given the way I shall have to live for the rest of my life, but I am happier only taking things I need. The nurses have to go on Doctor’s orders and I understand that but I asked them to have a word and eventually there were no more paracetamol. I still have about three films of them lying at home unused. Good if I get a headache writing this stuff I suppose.
Woke up on the 7th and it would be yet again hard to describe what it is like to anyone who is lucky enough to have never been in hospital. The best way I can put it is that it is like some surreal cross between a soviet gulag (you cannot leave) and a 1960’s Butlins holiday camp (everyone trying to keep you cheery) and I can say I really did not mind being in there. I know that for most people it is stressful but for me it is no bother. Remember, I had had a spell of it less than a year before and knew the drill.
Think about it logically. I choose to live alone and that suits me so no family, no wife, no kids, no responsibilities. In hospital, as at home, I sleep when I want and wake when I want (apart from the necessary obs @ 0600 or whenever), I eat if I want and don’t if I don’t. I have a bed that probably cost £10,000 and is way more comfortable than my own, comfy as that is. Wouldn’t you go for that? There are lovely people coming round all day that you can chat with. When I was at home under the Chinese virus house arrest I did not speak to another human being from one week until the next.
I’d go to my local little supermarket once week on a Friday and the checkout operator would be the only person I would speak to for a week. As I said, I am a very solitary man. That being said, I love interacting with people and that is what gets me about this CoVid crap, same as SARS and chicken ‘flu (both of which also originated in China incidentally) although there were not the same restrictions on travel and everything else, as I recall. It is the enforced isolation that is the bugbear.
This is as much as I managed to write before complete apathy led to my self-imposed three month hiatus and so what follows is done from memory which can be a fairly fickle friend at my time of life. It is not too bad writing about my travels as I always have lots of images to prompt me but I hadn’t really taken many in hospital, except the odd gruesome one of my wounds and the food which did rather improve when I managed to convey the concept of the large portion to the dinner lady or “ward host” as they are rather grandly called. As I mentioned above, I do not mind being in hospital at all. The image shows all it takes to get a decent feed!
Whether or not the Royal London doctors had consulted Mr. Crinnion I had no idea and I still don’t, they didn’t even come to see me that morning. It was one of the nurses that told me I was being discharged that afternoon. This, of course was much quicker than the senior surgeon’s prognosis of a week and I asked the nurse to check that it was correct but apparently it was. The nurse seemed very cheery about my discharge on the not unreasonable premise that people generally like to get home from hospital but I had a nagging feeling of “here we go again”. I was already imagining being re-admitted yet again in a few days.
Mark, my new physicist mate had also been told he was being allowed home that afternoon and we were joking about who was going to be first to make their bit for freedom. We had more or less said our goodbyes earlier in the day and shared a non-socially distanced and probably illegal handshake with a promise that when all this nonsense was over and we had both recovered sufficiently I would take him and his good lady wife for a walk round the East End. He seemed keen to see some of the places I had been boring him about and, in some cases, even pointed out from our vantage point on the third floor.
That afternoon a porter came round with a wheelchair and announced it was time for me to go. I told him I could walk and commented that I had walked into the place and I was going to walk out if it again but he insisted. Rules are rules and I think it is something to do with insurance but it seemed a bit daft to me as they were sending me home to an upstairs flat with no lift, porters nor wheelchairs but I wasn’t going to argue. I gathered up my bag, which I had already packed, my huge amount of medication, said another quick goodbye to everyone on the ward and off we went to the Departure Lounge.
Departure Lounge? In a hospital? I had never heard of such a thing before but there it was and, in truth, it was not unlike a departure lounge in an airport minus the tannoy announcements and departure boards. Same uncomfortable seats, same large screen TV with the sound turned down, same overpriced vending machines, the whole works. As I was waiting for my Patient Transport ambulance who gets wheeled in but Mark so we were back into chatting. Eventually the ambulance driver turned up and I was even allowed to walk the 30 or so yards to it after yet another fond farewell to the Doc. Honestly, this was turning into a Brontë novel with the amount of goodbyes there had been that day.
A five minute drive and I was outside my front door although the ambulance driver insisted on standing there until I was safely inside. More regulations I suppose and there I was, back once again in my own little flat and hoping against hope there were not going to be any further problems. It had been an interesting few weeks one way and another.
This entry has gone on for quite a bit now and without even the blessing of a reasonable number of images to relieve the boredom for the reader so I think this will make a convenient place to take a break.
In the next entry I shall tell you about my new regime and how I survived CoVid 19 (yes, really) so stay tuned and spread the word!