Coming down the up stairs at UHW, just in front of the frightening full-length portrait of Aneurin Bevan in his overcoat, glowing like a warning to boarders, is a mother under full sail. This one is wearing heavy flowing dark robes, a squalling child spinning at the end of each arm, a hijab wrapped tight around her full moon face. She’s talking hands free, full pelt, and at maximum volume into a mobile that’s held to her ear by the hijab’s cloth. Before her patients on sticks scatter. I lean into the wall to let her pass. You have to admire her style.
Outside the regularly ignored clutter of Trust notices banning smoking totally anywhere on the site have been supplemented by signboards that direct users to the newly provided smoking sheds. These are also ignored. The limp and the lame continue to smoulder and cough just outside the concourse doors, as they always have. Gorgon guards. Emissaries of the alternate world.
I’m back at bloods where history is repeating itself. There are crowds. Tickets fail to correspond to the numbers shown on the illuminated display. The bandaged and the unable battle at the entrance, waving their arms, complaining about disorder. Time flows by. I does so slowly. I read the contents of my wallet. No book, mine left in the car in error. Old receipts, a blue twenty, credit cards, bits of paper with phone numbers on them, my prednisolone users treatment card. This contains stern and vital advice. “If you become ill consult your doctor promptly.” I’ll do that.
Then I’m back at Rheumatology where my cascade of symptoms is noted and new tests talked about, done or booked. Urine sampled. BP taken. Temperature written down. Outside there’s a sun and it’s shining. But the future is delineated with a mesh of new appointments and hours to be spent in long corridors waiting for my name to be called.
It strikes me then that none of this ever going to fully pass. Life rolls from one failing to the next. That’s its essential nature. It arrives. It shines. It renews. Then it falls apart. All that’s in question is the speed at which this happens. Slowing down the rate is now my prime objective. I shuffle in my seat, fish about in my pocket. Come up with a mint. Sure sign of age that. Like admiring country and western music, wearing hats while driving, and standing up when women enter the room. A nurse does. So I stand. I smile. Then I sit down again.