- I was home from hospital following heart bypass surgery a week earlier. Although it was high summer, I felt shivery and was still wary that my new internal wiring might somehow pop apart if I moved too quickly. I knew I was facing a period of recuperation, both physical and mental.
A close friend arrived on a social visit and snuffled audibly as she came through to the lounge. “I’ve picked up one of those summer colds,” she muttered. “Honestly, there’s nothing worse, is there?”
“Well, possibly,” I replied.
From that brief exchange Family Blog acquired a handy new all-purpose perspective-reminder.
“Dammit, I’ve just cut my finger on a sheet of paper!”
“Oh dear, there’s really nothing worse, is there?”
“This broccoli’s gone cold.”
“I know, there’s nothing worse.”
I’m sure you get the picture. What’s the useful equivalent in your house? At least it’s an improvement on realising how many catch phrases I seem to have appropriated into my conversation over the years from old comedy programmes.
“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power drives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!”
“If I went round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me…”
” I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.”
“What have the Romans ever done for us?”
“All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”
“Wild? I was absolutely livid!”
“I’ve got nothing against your right leg. The trouble is – neither have you.”
“Your right leg I like. A lovely leg for the role…”
Or, from Mrs. Blog’s surgery, “This hamster/gerbil/guinea pig is no more. It has ceased to be…”
“The Norwegian Blue prefers kippin’ on its back”
Anyway, touch wood, the NHS and I (the former mainly) seem to be winning the great Sussex “dodgy hip” war and I can start planning a return to what I like to think of as “normality”. My daily visits from the intravenous drip fairy should end soon, though I gather I shall remain on antibiotics (and therefore an alcohol-free zone) for an additional six weeks which, by my anxious study of the calendar, seems to take us precisely to New Year’s Day. So, when the bells ring at midnight, stand back…
When I return to work, will anybody have noticed my absence? “Been away, then? Anywhere nice?” More worryingly, will they have decided that I’m dispensible?
After much deliberation those in charge of Lewes bonfire celebrations resolved to make the best of a bad job and press on without me on the 5th. Stuffing the head of Alex Salmond with fireworks and detonating it will no doubt have helped my own bonfire society members in some small way to get over my enforced absence. I loved the way that some sections of the national media, attacking this action as “racist”, questioned in all seriousness whether we would have treated any other national politician in the same way. Solid research there, boys. Try Angela Merkel, George Brown, Condoleezza Rice, Osama Bin Laden, George Osborne, George Bush, David Cameron (almost every year), Camilla – and that’s just in the last few years. I shouldn’t worry Alex – it means they probably like you, and you would have had reason to worry if you hadn’t made it to the top of the pyre this year.
Many of you will, I know, have been worrying about the fate of our veteran Renault Scenic which failed, by just a few hundred yards to get me home from hospital last month. I’m afraid – not in pique, but having done the sums – that we said our farewells on the garage forecourt and pocketed the scrap money. It was a tearful moment – bound to be, receiving just £90 after all our outlay over the years.
In truth, although it wasn’t quite like losing a family pet (see earlier posts), Mrs. Blog, the Scenic and I go back a long way and have many memories: those romantic runs to the Civic Amenities Site (sigh), the pre-Christmas weekends in Normandy (that’s all for my personal consumption, officer), those amusing scrapes (well, scrapes anyway.)
While mobility-reduced I’ve been fortunate to have had hospital and home visits from a number of old colleagues and friends from school or university days. Highly enjoyable in every case, let me stress. But one visit did present me with an unexpected dilemma etiquette-wise.
Is there a recommended course of action for responding to a situation where somebody you haven’t seen for a long time suddenly acquires an unmistakeable fragment of egg mayo right on the end of their nose? I mean, it’s not like he brought it with him or anything; it had clearly formed, until moments before, a very minor but integral element in one of Mrs. Blog’s sandwiches. This – again, I must stress – is not to impugn the structural integrity of Mrs. B’s fine creation. But, one moment it wasn’t there, the next it was – and family Blog couldn’t take its collective eye off it.
With hindsight it was of course self-evident that I should have acted immediately, and with gusto. “Unusual dietary customs you appear to have picked up on your travels since we last met, old boy!” or something similar. But, for whatever reason – perhaps a little social awkwardness after all the years that had passed, or a misguided assumption that the problem would correct itself – I failed to act. Can he not spot it for goodness’ sake? Will it fall off through natural causes? How long does something like that take to compost itself? I know not why but, crucially, I didn’t act straight away and we were doomed.
Defiantly, the egg remained in place as the long afternoon progressed. What could, and should, have been dealt with swiftly and painlessly, had now become seemingly intractable. I contemplated reaching across the table with a view to a casual swipe with my elbow but I doubted that I could pull this off with anything like aplomb, and without inflicting facial damage. There were even hurried family whisperings in the hall, but no workable solutions emerged. Blogdaughter exchanged urgent text messages with friends around the country but to no avail – plenty of witticisms and unhelpful advice but nothing you could actually deploy to unscramble the situation, as it were.
In the end, Eggman disentangled the Gordian Knot without any intervention on our part. He returned from a visit to the bathroom sans oeuf and the issue was never mentioned. Any future visits to Chez Blog will no doubt be preceded by careful menu planning on our part.
Beware casual metaphor…
Now that mobility is returning and the blogfamily social calendar actually has some boxes filled in, there should be a healthier assortment of subjects on which to hold forth. We missed the great poppy event at the Tower because I couldn’t fancy the travel and the prospect of playing bumps-a-daisy with strangers on the Underground with a second-hand hip joint concealed about my person, but I like the sound of the new attraction on Tower Bridge, which should be just the ticket for Mrs. Blog’s next sponsored charity challenge.
For somebody with a confirmed dread of looking down from great heights and who just scaled the roof of the O2 arena on behalf of Lost Cats Brighton, the new glass-floored walkway at an upper level of the bridge (“one primary objective was making it look as real as possible, like a big gaping hole in the floor”) might give her food for thought…
Now that I’m getting back into circulation, I’m able to take advantage of one or two of the offers that have come for interviews to promote this blog’s recently published, learned treatise on the trials and tribulations of co-habitation with a veterinary surgeon, “It’s a Dog’s Life for the Other Half” (Mereo Books, available through the usual outlets in hard and e-versions and guaranteed to meet all those existential Christmas present crises.)
I particularly enjoyed this week’s live chat down the phone line with a lovely presenter from Talk Radio Europe, broadcasting to an audience of ex-pats living in Spain. When you’ve been living outside the UK for a while and tune in for news of reassuringly familiar tales from “home”, it must be nice to hear some bloke from Sussex banging on about how to catch a wallaby in a wedding dress (the bride, not the wallaby, nor I, was wearing the wedding dress), what to do if your dog swallows a Cliff Richard tape, how to react when a large bird of prey hitches a lift beneath your roof rack and why it’s ok to hold hands with a TV star up a cow’s backside.
Thanks to those of you who have bought – or claim to have bought – “It’s a Dog’s Life for the Other Half”. Please feel free to share your positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, preferably before taking the risk of reading it…