Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Twa Corbies
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So, once again the routine checks, the fasting, the wee pill, the backless flowery gown, the trolley ride to the bright light, the calm, competent team in bonny green, the slide from trolley to table, the merciful blackness. A moment later (it seems), waking again in High Dependency, with the catheter and oxygen and the blessed morphine. Once more the bit where two nurses turn you, to prevent bedsores, and it hurts like b*ggery in spite of the morphine. (Surgeons and doctors seem unaware of this, but of course they aren’t around to hear the language and – sometimes – screams.)
Again the transfer to a ward, but this time it’s a single room with toilet, hurrah. And there’s a new feature: a weight is attached to the new cement leg, which apparently will end up a bit shorter than it was, and the weight is there to minimise the shortening. An unnerving feeling of being gradually dragged over the edge, though obviously the weight would stop when it hit the floor.
Fine to have an adjacent loo; only, when the need arose, I had to call a nurse first to remove the weight so that I could get up and make the slow zimmeration loowards, so it took quite a time to get there; since I had the blessing of a catheter it was only Number Two that needed the journey, but the antibiotic in the cement had a powerful loosening effect on the bowels, and an Urgent Need could strike very suddenly. Many near-accidents and one frightful uncontrollable episode live in the memory. Truly nurses have a shitty job.
Aside from the recurrent bowel emergency, there was little to entertain. so the brain dipped into its resources: heaps of music lived in there, but it only played what it felt like at the time; dollops of Great (and small) Literature were scattered about too, surely something amusing would surface?
Out of all that Greek and Latin stuff, was there not a snippet or two? What came to mind was Petronius, who wrote the first (possibly) novel ever (oddly, epic doesn’t count as “novel”), including a satirical account of a rich vulgar dinner-party hosted by Trimalchio, who was almost certainly a cartoon version of Nero; Nero was not pleased, and soon Petronius found himself in a situation where suicide was the best option; he invited his friends round, and they had a great party with wine and posh nosh and song and jokes, during which P. slit his veins open, bandaged them from time to time if a particularly good riff of jokes was on the go, and amid the feasting and revelry gradually handed in his dinner-pail (in a manner of speaking). Clever Petronius, I thought, remembering the white tunnel and the peaceful feeling. Best not dwell on that just now, though. How about music?
What popped up was a poem-plus-song, The Twa Corbies, by that greatest of all balladeers, Anon. Old Blind Dogs’ version was singing in my head. Everyone knows it – a tale of (probable) skulduggery and treachery told by the eponymous Corbies as they discuss their dinner-options: “I ken whaur there lies a new-slain knight,
and naebody kens that he lies there
but his hawk, his hound and his lady fair.
His hound is tae the huntin gane,
His hawk tae fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady's tain anither mate,
So we may mak oor dinner swate."
"Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I'll pick oot his bonny blue een;
Wi ae lock o his gowden hair
We'll theek oor nest whan it grows bare."
So we’re left to guess who done him in: his missus? the bloke she’s moved in with? both together? he was bonny, but maybe seriously boring? all we get is the Corbies’ point of view, which is limited to nosh and stuff for nest-lining – lots there to brood over, great plot material, masterly story-telling, far, far better than Shakespeare, it seems to me.
Dark thoughts, and Old Blind Dogs go on and on about the corbies picking oot his bonny blue een, but they pass the time. Days come and go, zimmering gets a little easier, Christmas is drawing near. Let me have a shot with elbow-crutches … no, impossible.
But Karen and family are coming back from South Africa for their summer holiday and they will stay with me, so I can go home. This is the most cheering news imaginable.
And on Christmas Eve they come and get me. Home means negotiating a tiny step, about one inch high, at the gate, and another at the door, incredibly difficult, but at last I can sink into an armchair and hope that zimmering the two steps down into the kitchen and bathroom will somehow be possible.
Only 10 weeks to go now, until bye-bye, cement, hello, new prosthesis. This might be the beginning of the end.
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(alas, old’n’idle has droned on so long aboot thon pome that we’ll have to leave the rest till another instalment)

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