“The NHS is the closest thing the English have to a religion.”
I rather rudely failed to introduce myself properly when I was wheeled into my new ward last night, I had other things, both on my mind; and indeed my penis. My secluded section of the ward thankfully has just four beds. Diagonally opposite me is a much older man who was asleep last evening when I arrived and remains fast asleep this morning; at least I hope he is asleep. In the beds directly opposite and next to my bed are two very well spoken gents, presumably in their late 60s. They have already established a bit of a rapport with each other and are currently discussing classical music concerts that they attended recently. Should I chip in and mention that I took my son to see David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall a few weeks ago? Best not. Instead I listen carefully trying to tune into their refined accents to determine which one of these aristocratic sounding gentleman was the one who had been moaning in agony and bawling “FUCK THIS FOR A GAME OF FUCKING SOLDIERS”, all night long.
Although my pain has subsided slightly this morning my catheter is still very much making its presence known to me. I reach over and hoist the bag aloft to self-assess my produce. Much brighter than yesterday's harvest but there are a couple of fresh morsels bobbing about in there, the urologist was clearly right to leave it in. Tori arrives after breakfast, long before official visiting hours, but no one complains so she settles down in the chair beside my bed to await some news.
News is not forthcoming. The friendly and busy nurses regularly check my temperature and blood pressure but have no fresh information to impart. A different, and much younger urologist finally appears at around lunchtime. I ask him if they have any idea yet what the problem is and whether they have had the results of yesterday's CT scan. He seems very nervous and cagey and has very little he can tell me. I wonder if this was because he genuinely doesn't know, or if he just hasn’t been given the “how to deliver bad news” training course yet and was leaving the update for someone else. I am starting to suspect the latter. Anyway, he does at least seem happy with the contents of my catheter bag and happily agrees to finally remove it. I had wondered how the tube end stayed in-situ. During one of the more painful moments I had given the tube a gentle tug on the off-chance that it may accidently just sort of slip out. I soon discover why it hadn’t accidently just sort of slipped out was because a bulb at the end is inflated with water after it is installed, to stop some clumsy git like me accidently just pulling it out.
After explaining how the inflatable bulb thingy works, the urologist then mentions that sometimes it has an annoying tendency to not deflate fully, and then it can be a bit of a pain getting it out. Up until yesterday I had always been rather satisfied with the liberal distribution of nerve endings on the end of my todger, they have conversely been proving somewhat problematic more recently and perhaps even more so in just a moment. Nobody explains the correct bracing position but I brace myself anyway as best I can. As luck would have it, the bulb does deflate properly, but it still stings like a complete bastard as he slowly slips it free. I would have gone for the quick jerking technique used by top-hatted entertainers on tablecloths precariously stacked with crockery, but I’m sure he’s perfected the most efficient willy emancipation method. I breathe a deep sigh of relief and snugly tuck the old chap away to recover from his brutal assault. The interest in my piddle has not however abated and I am presented with a rigid plastic pot so they can continue to keep a watchful eye on things. This seems like a much more agreeable arrangement. My liberator then tells me that the consultant urologist will be visiting me later and he should be able to give me a lot more detail.
While Tori and I settle back down to await the consultant urologist let me digress once again with a short tale about when we once visited Tori’s paternal grandparents…
Tori’s Grandma, Violet, was very prim and she was very proper. Poor grammar was always corrected, manners strictly adhered to and principles and decency upheld at all times. Woe betide anyone who pushed these unyielding rubrics. Old school mistress and marine drill sergeants never forget how to instil unquestionable subservience into their congregate. For clarity, I should stress that I’m pretty sure she was a school mistress rather than a drill sergeant. Ninety-nine percent positive.
Violet’s husband, Harry, was significantly less prim and considerably less proper. He was a docker at Goole docks, but Violet had him well trained, (in her presence at least). Being a true Yorkshire man, Harry could never pass up on a good bargain, whether it be a cut priced stock clearance at the local market, or an unattended crate carelessly left on the dockside.
Violet and Harry lived in an Aladdin’s Bungalow, crammed from floor to ceiling in tat, trinkets, tinned peaches and the occasional serendipitous treasure. Many years ago before Tori and I were married, I often used to drive Tori and her parents down to Goole on a Saturday to visit Violet and Harry. After a fish and chip lunch washed down with a washed up bottle of Blue Nun came the family gossip, and after the family gossip came the mandatory redistribution of tat.
Prior to our visit, Violet would decide which items of her ever growing stockpile to gift us. Tori’s mother may be bequeathed forty-eight catering tins of peaches, her dad a broken pocket watch with a long back story and strict instructions to fix, I once got a retail box of toasted coconut mushrooms with the sell by date crossed through in biro. Tori once got a rather nice Laura Ashley dinner service that remained on our Welsh Dresser for years. She eventually boxed it up and stored it in the loft, presumably with the intention to one day redistribute to an unsuspecting future grandchild when she comes to visit with her boyfriend.
Invariably though, the really good stuff like jewellery went to her hairdresser. However, on one particular visit, Violet suddenly recalled a beautiful ring that Tori simply must have. Violet abandoned us in the lounge whilst she went off into storeroom two on a critical mission to unearth the precious prize. The longer she was gone the more frantic sounding became her search. The sound of tin lids being desperately prized off became louder. Trayfuls of trinkets where being mauled and rummaged, drawers and cupboards opened and slammed at an increasing frequency before silence finally descended. The futility of her failed search gradually gave way to the dawning realisation of who she had actually given the ring to and her frustration was finally manifested in a brash exclamation of despair that filled the previously silent lounge. “BUGGERING ARSEHOLES” reverberated between the peach tins, tacky trinkets and collective ears of the lounge. Tori and I looked at each other trying our best not to laugh. “Buggering arseholes” I whispered to her. “Buggering arseholes” she whispered back and we both fell about laughing. The hairdresser may have bagged the ring, but we got the idiom.
Over thirty years later and “Buggering Arseholes” is still a firm favourite in the Jago household. Whenever a plate is dropped, a drink is spilt or a toe is stubbed up will go the shout: “Buggering Arseholes”. I use it a lot because I have yet to discover two other words so expressive and poetic as “Buggering Arseholes”. It has been pointed out to me that technically the “Arseholes” are redundant as the very nature of the verb implies the noun. That’s as maybe and as much a like to exclaim the occasional “Bugger” or “Arseholes, “Buggering Arseholes” remains greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Next time you hit your thumb with a hammer rather than a “Fuck it”, “Shit on it” or “Bollocks”, I thoroughly recommend a “Buggering Arseholes”. Try it.
Afternoon visiting time has been and gone and Tori and I are still patiently waiting for the Consultant Urologist. The nurses however, have become slightly less patient and it’s politely suggested that perhaps Tori goes home for a bit and comes back later during the evening visiting time. Tori gathers her things and heads off, she must have unknowingly passed Mr. Campbell, my Consultant Urologist, in the corridor as she leaves. Mr. Campbell takes the still warm but empty chair beside my bed and introduces himself to me, He then invites me into one of the small consulting rooms at the side of the ward. We take a seat in the consulting room and he electronically summons up a large monochrome image on the computer of my previously unseen innards.
The large shadowy thing consuming a good area of the image he calmly and professionally informs me is a tumour in my right kidney. He confesses that it is a rather large tumour but at this stage he is unable to determine if it is benign or malignant. He tells me that he can see no evidence of the tumour spreading beyond the kidney from this image, but it does show that the tumour extends to the edge so there is a possibility it may have spread wider.